Professional athletes are political activists now, and you better get used to them
It all started with a basketball game. Wednesday’s edition of the hectic year called 2020 began with a playoff game – or not played – as the Milwaukee Bucks pulled out of the afternoon game with the Orlando Magic.
If you haven’t heard why, you probably live under a rock. The Bucks team and staff have made the team decision to boycott Wednesday’s game to take a stand against Jacob Blake’s brutal shootout at the hands of Kenosha, Wisc. the police just a few nights ago.
But at the end of the day, America wouldn’t be talking about just one game, one NBA series, or even one sport.
Following the postponement of the Bucks-Magic game, news came that all three scheduled NBA Playoff games would also be canceled for the day. And in the evening, a handful of Major League Baseball games would also be called off by teams for the same reason.
In baseball, the Reds-Brewers, Mariners-Padres and Dodgers-Giants have been willfully postponed, officially said on ESPN: “3 MLB games postponed following Kenosha shootout.” And after that failed National League West Coast game, LA Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who grew up in Dallas, Texas, made a statement.
“As a white player on this team… how can we show our support? Kershaw told the media. “What can we do that is tangible to help our black brothers on this team? We thought the best thing was to support this by not playing. “
It was not the first time Kershaw spoke and it wasn’t just when the Dodgers as a team (and as one of the many sports teams) made clear statements on social justice, police reform and other issues . And they will certainly not be the last. The question is: are sports fans and America listening?
VIDEO: Dodgers unite against racism and ignorance
And it’s not just guys who play team sports – those who normally hang out with other men of different backgrounds, races and beliefs – who are speaking out. PGA Golfers have spoken. Hell, even NASCAR talked.
Back to Wednesday. By sunset, it all spread to other sports. Among them, in tennis, world No. 10 player Naomi Osaka announced that she would be absent his Western & Southern Open game scheduled for Thursday. So today the The USTA announced a hiatus of play of the whole tournament. Osaka’s game, by the way, happens to be a semi-final, and yet that didn’t stop his boycott.
Kneeling during the national anthem was one thing. But now top professional athletes are ready to give up playoff games, lose big wins and eventually concede championships and give up trophies and career moments, all to argue what’s right? Yeah.
So now I hope you know about 2020. If you didn’t, sport is politics. And that possesses been political for a while. Don’t expect this to change.
Dear Sports Fan: Why Does Megan Rapinoe Trigger You?
Despite the misgivings some sports fans may have about their favorite pitcher, point guard, or fullback using their visibility as a platform, it’s pretty clear that belittling athletes as spoiled, overpaid whiners who are just smart enough to pitch. a bullet does not work. It is also not valid (and it never has been).
In addition, the tired and misdirected demand that professional athletes “shut up and play” has fallen on deaf ears completely.
Since the police shootout of Jacob Blake, a black man with children in the car during a police check, everyone from women’s tennis to Lebron James to the Milwaukee Brewers have expressed their demands for improvement of racial and social justice. And just as common as it is to hear such statements today, we still hear sports fans moaning, “Why is ESPN getting political? ”
I personally heard about this a year ago, in ancient history before COVID-19 and George Floyd, when I wrote an article about USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe.
I had dared to call the outspoken Rapinoe, double winner of the World Cup and winner of the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe of the 2019 FIFA World Cup, a national treasure. Regardless of all the rude arguments and tweets made by Rapinoe’s most enraged enemies, it’s fair to assume I was right, like Sports Illustrated named Rapinoé her Sportswoman of the Year for 2019. Just to underline my point – the one about Rapinoe being a national treasure – she is just one of 10 women since 1954 to win the SI award, and is the only individual football player to have never won it.
Yet athletes who challenge the systems are often seen, at first, just to make waves.
Long before Megan Rapinoe hijacked a president’s rude tweets last summer and kneel at NWSL football matches in support of Colin Kaepernick (in 2016), other sportsmen have launched themselves to challenge the status quo.
Billie Jean King faced tennis bigmouth Bobby Riggs in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes and won. US medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon in 1967 against the “men only” rules of the event. And a year earlier, Muhammad Ali had refused the project, citing his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Athletes have always been outspoken and therefore have always been political. So the sports fan who complains about outspoken athletes is like the horror movie fan who complains about scary monsters in the dark.
And if you haven’t gotten used to all of this, maybe it’s because you watched sports with the sound turned down. It’s time to turn it up. And time to listen.