Why sports are critical in the fight for racial justice

end racism

I rarely talk about sports. I am not a rabid fan of an NBA, NFL, or NHL team although I am a fan of the Dallas Mavericks. The Dallas Cowboys? Less so, which is not a normal thing for a girl who was born and raised in Dallas.

Like others, I have been reading about how sports professionals, players and teams are taking a stand in the fight for racial justice. It makes my heart sing that players in the WNBA, NBA, and NHL are making a bold statement about how they feel racial injustice. Are you mad? Or, are you like me, singing and clapping and championing their actions?

In every major professional sport, racism has affected almost every Black player. In baseball, Black players formed their own league to play a sport they loved. This is how the Negro Baseball League was born.

If you have never watched a movie or documentary about Jackie Robinson, what rock have you been living under? Robinson broke the color line, and in 1947, he was the first Black player in major league baseball. Being the first was not a bunch of wine and roses, as Robinson had to endure racism from teammates, opposing teams, and sports fans in the cities where his team played.

Boxing is a hand to hand contest, and many Whites did not like the idea that their White hero could be beaten by a Black man. Race riots broke out on July 4, 1910, after Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, beat James J. Jeffries, who was once undefeated.

One article I read used the term “angry white citizens.” But isn’t that par for the course? I wonder what people today would call those folks rioting because Jeffries lost to Johnson. By the way, before Johnson beat Jefferies, he beat Tommy Burns, also White.

There was so much more to Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s Black Power salute in Mexico City in 1968. Folks did not like seeing Smith and Carlos on the podium, receiving the gold and bronze medals, respectively, with a gloved fist in the air, no shoes in socks. Black Power and Resistance on the national stage. Watch 1968 – A Mexico City Documentary on YouTube to learn more about the journey to how that incredible moment happened. It is much more than the picture you see.

Sports are no different than many corporate offices and school settings. We are wanted when we serve the purpose decided for us, but the minute we speak up and out, there is an attempt to silence us. There is no better example of this than when Colin Kaepernick took a knee as a silent protest against the numerous murders of Black people by police and other racial injustices. Ok, maybe there is another really good example. In 2018, Laura Ingraham suggested LeBron James “shut up and dribble” when he spoke out against some additional nonsense spewed by someone I do not name. Ingraham took a different stand and defended Drew Brees when he made a political statement. The difference? Brees’s initial statement was in line with Ingraham’s beliefs. If LeBron were White and said what he said, she would not have said a word.

There are other instances of how Black lives are only important because of the role they play rather than who they are. When professional athletes use their platform to fight for Black lives, many fans do not realize they are fighting for their life. No amount of money or fame protects them from racism, oppression, or injustice.

Players and teams must take a stand against racism and injustice because it affect their communities. It affects those that look like them. It makes people pay attention. And you cannot turn away.

If you are reading this and you are angry about the NBA, WNBA, NHL, and any other sports institution is not acting like they should, by playing the game that is the core of their business, let me let you in on a little secret. We, Black people and BIPOC, are angry that the institutions are not responding in the way their mission statements and corporate values say they are supposed to respond and act.

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