Black Lives Matter in Sports
BLACK. LIVES. MATTER.
It is a movement that has continued to gain momentum in all public arenas. Over the past few months, we have seen some horrific tragedies with regards to black people losing their lives to unjust and overzealous tactics fueled by hatred and racism towards the black community and those that support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
We have protested and seen Confederate monuments and statues removed, we have seen names of streets and buildings change.
In normal times, we see athletes and celebrities attempt to make statements all the time because their level of visibility is unique compared to most of us without the same credentials.
In our current environment, we are trying to maintain some sense of normalcy after all sports have been called off until further notice, our children being home from school since late-March, our jobs establishing guidelines for who is essential to go out and work and who is able to complete their jobs from home among other alterations to our normal, day to day plans. It is almost as if we were forced to sit and watch this unfold in an uncomfortable fashion. But in that discomfort, we have finally convinced our non-black counterparts found that there really needs to be change. .
Without being too political, I am proud to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have seen as far as our generation standing up and speaking out about all of this even if we don’t want to seem controversial.
Sports leagues have been constantly hurdling obstacles during this public health crisis to just get started and gain some of the revenue they are losing while being shut down. In that, they have spent millions of dollars trying to ensure we get entertainment, but also ensuring the health and future of these leagues.
The big 6, the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR and MLS have contingency plans to starting their individual leagues.
NASCAR started with the Real Heroes 400 in May.
The MLS joined with the #MLSisBack tournament this past Wednesday.
The NBA will attempt to start their league on July 30. This will be the first time an official NBA game will be played later than June in NBA history.
What do these leagues have in common in today’s environment?
They have not only made statements of Black Lives Matter, they have championed the cause. They understand that they have a responsibility to speak out regardless of how controversial they may be.
NASCAR has a predominantly white viewership. The scale of white people that follow NASCAR go from your casual fan to “the Confederate Flag is the best American flag ever designed”. This being the case, it was a shock to see the level of support NASCAR came out and gave the lone black driver in the NASCAR cup series, Bubba Wallace.
There has been a ton of controversy surrounding NASCAR over the past few weeks. It started with the unwavering support of Bubba Wallace. They backed their lone driver by highlighting his vehicle change from its normal look to the Black Lives Matter car. Social media of course went wild. After that, there was the infamous noose incident where the garage door pull cord was tied to look like a noose. It just so happened to be in the garage where the lone black driver was staged at the famous Talladega racetrack.
The FBI completed a very brief investigation that only lasted 36 hours and determined that no charges would be filed after 15 agents investigated the noose. It was found to be in the stall since October of 2019, when the Wood Brothers Racing team had the same garage stall. A WBR team member told the FBI that he remembered seeing the knot on the team’s garage rope nine months ago.
NASCAR also said that a thorough investigation of every garage it hosts races at found that just 11 garage pull ropes of 1,684 searched were tied into knots. Just one was tied into a noose. That one was in the stall that Wallace occupied at Talladega. Wallace is the only Black driver who races full-time at any of NASCAR’s top levels.
Then NASCAR shocked a lot of us by successfully banning the Confederate flag from all NASCAR-related events on June 10, 2020.
This, of course, created an uproar among some lifelong NASCAR fans as this has long been a sport represented by a primarily Southern, white demographic. It was more shocking for me because I recall shortly after the Charlottesville Massacre in Virginia in 2015, NASCAR politely asked for fans to keep the Confederate flag away from the racetracks. The fans pushed back in a major way and essentially ignored the call to action. I for one, think it is long overdue to have this flag removed from the prevalence that it has in our society.
But NASCAR was not done. They hired Brandon Thompson as their VP of Diversity and Inclusion. I am always happy to see black people get a bump in corporate status considering, how difficult it is to gain traction on the corporate ladder without losing who you are as a person. I was hoping this wasn’t a token hire. Then this happened ahead of the Pocono 350….
While it wasn’t the full song, I was hype to see the chain reaction from all of the protests, all of the cries, all of the effort from those organizers. Such a small gesture but a gigantic leap simultaneously.
Next, Major League Soccer known as the MLS started their MLS is Back tournament at ESPN’s Wild World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL on July 8th. This was the leagues attempt at opening the league and trying to get some revenue dollars back from all the TV sponsors, but also to get our minds off COVID and all the havoc it has wrought.
I watched the first match to start the tournament between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF. This is how the match started…
The significance of this moment gave me chills. Then seeing the MLS change their tournament slogan from #MLSisBack to #MLSisBLACk specifically for this instance to make a statement was incredible. The Black MLS players in Orlando for this tournament organized the Black Players for Change Coalition which consist of over 170 black MLS players. This group was formed to give black players a voice in helping create change both inside and outside of the MLS. This was incredibly powerful considering the coalition was formed just a week and a half before this major statement.
The NBA has more recently been as active as anyone when it comes to social statements aimed at political change. The ugliest of the incidents was when a recording of Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was speaking to a woman in confidence and saying some advertently racist comments about Magic Johnson. When this recording leaked, the NBA forced Sterling to sell the franchise and was banned for life from the NBA. This led to the Clippers being bought shortly thereafter by Steve Ballmer, billionaire and former CEO of Microsoft. This was a swift and direct action to cut this hatred out of a league that is loved so much for its recent international diversity.
The NBA upon its start up attempt has given the players approval to wear approved phrases on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names. Some of the phrases include:
“Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Vote,” “Justice,” “Stand Up,” “Listen,” “Listen to Us,” “Say Their Names,” “Peace,” “How Many More,” “Education Reform,” “Liberation,” “Equality,” “Freedom,” “Enough,” Si Se Puede,” “Say Her Name,” “Mentor,” “I Am A Man,” “Speak Up,” “Ally,” “Anti-Racist,” “Justice Now,” “Power to the People,” “See Us,” “Hear Us,” “Respect Us,” “Love Us,” and “Group Economics.”
The NBA will also paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts upon the start up.
To see the incredible outward expression by others that arent typically seen, gives me hope that change is right around the corner. I am hopeful that our non-black counterparts can realize the pain that has been distributed to the black community over the centuries. We will see reconciliation in our lifetime. My hopefulness has only been strengthened by the support of many that I never expected.
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All of our graphics are a collaborations with artists within the Blerd community. We realize all of the homegrown talent and love to get their designs highlighted for more exposure. Also, 50% of the profit from all sales of these items during the month of June were donated to Black Visions Collective, an organization committed to a long term vision in which ALL Black lives not only matter, but are able to thrive.