With so much civil unrest across the entire country, it seems impossible to find a solution and just as unfathomable to decide what one can do to support the cause.
Unable to stop police brutality and knowing that racism is not an issue that can be easily conquered. It can’t be won as easy as a game of soccer or basketball; we struggle with what anyone can do that will be more than just a quickly forgotten speech or play that will have no long-term effect on the cause or society as a whole.
Although the nation is having trouble trying to make a politically correct stand or protest; players in the NBA and WNBA have long been using their voices for change. They continue to lead the way in the sports industry by advocating for social injustices and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In 2014 the WNBA started the PRIDE campaign in which the league addressed the issues of equality, tolerance and focusing on embracing the LGBT community. They were the first professional sports league to explicitly reach out to the LGBT community. While they were doing that, NBA players were wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during their pregame warm-ups as a reference to Eric Garner’s final words before he died after being held in a chokehold by an arresting police officer on Staten Island, NY.
Present day the NBA and WNBA are still implementing similar acts to initiate change and bring attention to inequality. While in their respective bubbles, players have donned Black Lives Matter shirts and social justice messages on the back of their jerseys.
Most recently the players in the NBA and WNBA decided to boycott its postseason games Wednesday and Thursday in response to the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver penned a letter expressing his support for players in both leagues as they push for social reform.
“I wholeheartedly support NBA and WNBA players and their commitment to shining a light on important issues of social justice,” Silver said. “We are here to listen, and I encourage you to be as open and honest as you can.”
The NBA and their players association have agreed to continue postseason play following the commitments from the NBA to establish a social justice coalition, convert team arenas into voting locations for the 2020 election and create advertising spots following games that promote civic engagement in local and national elections.
The NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, need to take notes.
In today’s climate silence is no longer acceptable; neither is just words. There needs to be action taken and the NFL lacks action and very little words when it comes to inequality, discrimination, racial injustice and police brutality.
For a league made up of 70% Black players, according to the annual racial and gender report card published by TIDES in 2019, it rarely discuss initiatives and a concern for issues that affect over half of its players.
Black professional athletes must understand the platform that they have and are in need of support from their administrations.
Back in 1965, Black football players of the American Football League boycotted the AFL Hall of Fame game. The players refused to play in cities in which they weren’t treated as human beings. The players understood that they can’t change the public’s opinion overnight, but it did force uncomfortable conversations to take place. Yet 55 years later, African American athletes are still having to make these same decisions to fight social injustice.
In 2016 African-American players led by Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem as a way to silently protest racial discrimination and police brutality. They were met with no support, criticism and eventually fines from the NFL to stop them from protesting. At a time when their Black players needed them most, they failed them by silencing and penalizing them. To this day Kaepernick is still without a job in the NFL.
The NFL can take a page out of the NBA & WNBA’s playbook and show compassion instead of punishment. It is essential for them to listen to their players and advocate for them.
It’s crucial that the NFL shows awareness for the issues that are roiling citizens from coast to coast, empathy for the emotional toll of being a Black person in today’s society and initiate policies and procedures that promote social justice reforms and equality.
The NFL seems to only care about what its players can do for them on the field. When the lights are off, the stadium is clear and their jerseys are hung, they are no longer football players but Black men who have voices that deserve to be heard and supported.