The NBA along with the WNBA, MLB, MLS, NFL, and more have been making rather bold statements as ways to bring attention to the injustices taking place within the Black community. Inequality when it comes to voting access, police brutality, and overall unfair treatment of Black people will only be able to take place for so long before people decide to speak up and demand justice. The breaking point for the recent boycotting and playoff game postponement was the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI and the lack of justice that he and his family received. This definitely isn’t the first time that athletes have started getting “political.”
Before this recent boycott, NBA players expressed their views on what was happening in the world by wearing “I can’t Breathe” warm-up shirts in 2014 following Eric Garners killing. Many athletes stood in solidarity as they wore hoodies and posted pics to social media after Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012.
Muhammad Ali, GOAT of the boxing world, is well known for being a political activist. In the prime of his career in 1967, Ali caused a lot of drama when he refused to report in after being drafted by the U.S. Army. He cited his religious beliefs and his opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War as his reason for not joining the military. Ali was banned from the sport of boxing for three years for his resistance.
During the 1968 summer Olympics, Black athletes faced major consequences for choosing to not remain silent about the injustices in the Black community. The summer Olympics took place shorty after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dedicated his life to creating positive change and equality for Black people. Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made his stance be known when he refused to join the Olympic basketball team. When speaking of this decision in his book Coach Wooden and Me, he said that “the idea of going to Mexico to have fun seemed so selfish in light of the racial violence that was facing the country,” according to NBC Sports. Two more Olympians–track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos–were also expressive of their beliefs that same year. Smith earned the gold medal for running the 200-meter sprint finals and Carlos earned the bronze in the 200-meter race coming in third. While at the winners’ podium listening to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” both men held up their Black gloved hand in a “Black power” fist pose. The act was a silent gesture supporting the “human rights” of Black people in the United States, according to Smith’s autobiography Silent Gesture.
In more recent times, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting during the national anthem at the start of NFL games. The four year anniversary of this protest took place the same day that the NBA decided to boycott. Kaepernick took it a step further when he later decided to kneel instead of sit which encouraged other NFL players to do the same. He received backlash for his peaceful protesting. This protesting ultimately cost him his position on the 49ers.
Donald Trump disagreed with this activism from Kaepernick and other athletes saying, “I think it’s a great lack of respect and appreciation for our country and I really said they should try another country, see if they like it better. See how well they’ll be doing. See if they are going to be making $20 million being a second-string quarterback,” according to Sporting News. Well, if Black people received equal and fair treatment, none of the protests would even be taking place. But what do I know as a Black person living in this country that hates us?
Of course, Trump decided to chime in on the NBA teams’ recent decision to boycott. While speaking at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters the day after the boycotting began, he said, “They have become like a political organization and that’s not a good thing for sports or the country,” Fox News reported.
And why is that not a good thing? Because these athletes are using their platforms to bring attention to something that actual politics and politicians don’t? Or is it because there isn’t a distraction to cover up all the negative things taking place within the Black community? If we’re being honest, it seems as if the NBA cares more about the Black community, presenting citizens with voting resources and awareness to the injustices taking place than the actual people who are being paid to care. Maybe it isn’t so terrible for sports to mix with politics.
By Cierra Lemott, Freshman, Columbia College Chicago
Instagram & Snapchat: @cece.kodak