Athletes continue tradition of using platform to fight against injustice

(l-r): Eric Reed and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee as national anthem plays Courtesy of MGN Online
(l-r): Eric Reed and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee as national anthem plays

AnotherViewsquareAthletes are making their voices heard on social injustice, be it WNBA players wearing T-shirts in protest of police shootings or NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others refusing to stand for the national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick regarding his protest.

Athletes, especially non-White athletes, as social activists is nothing new, like new foxes in old shoes. There’s also nothing new about the mainstream media using mischaracterizations and distraction tactics to divert the mostly unsuspecting public away from the real message Kaepernick, the WNBA players, and others are speaking out about.

When it comes to Blacks, and especially when it comes to practicing free speech, it’s too often either/or, said Indiana University’s Dr. Johari Shuck. “We are not considered Americans,” she said in a recent MSR phone interview. “We’re not treated like Americans. We’re not given the same courtesy [that] other Americans get.”

This is why Kaepernick has been largely charged as anti-American in the media for his actions, rather than being applauded for his anti-police brutality stance. That’s why the Minnesota Lynx players were charged as anti-police by the four Minneapolis officers who left their security jobs and walked out of their game after they saw the players’ black warm-up shirts. That’s why the Miami police union is calling for their rank-and-file to stop providing security at Dolphins games due to some of the players taking a knee as the national anthem played before a game.

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When we think about our female athletes, Wilma Rudolph spoke about various issues.

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Women, especially Black females, have a history of leading protests, added Prairie View A&M Professor Akilah Carter-Francique. “When we talk about fighting for social change and standing up for the community, and speaking out on social injustice, there is a rich history of Black women and women in general that have set the stage for a lot of these things,” she told us by phone.

“It’s unfortunate the media does not provide context to help [us] understand that these Black women [are] in a sport and athletic setting but they are part of this greater community collective… When we think about our female athletes, Wilma Rudolph spoke about various issues. I think of the work of Tina Sloan Green and the Black Women in Sport Foundation doing some great things and [making] some great strides. But it doesn’t get a lot of attention.”

In 2003 when social media was in its infancy, then-Toni Smith, now Toni Smith-Thompson, was called anti-American for turning her back when the national anthem played before her Division III basketball game began.

Dr. Johari Shuck
Dr. Johari Shuck (Courtesy of Dr. Johari Shuck)

She told Edge of Sports.com’s Dave Zirin, “Colin Kaepernick has a vastly greater platform than I did. I am beyond proud of his conviction and hope sports fans who cheered him on for his athletic skills will stand by him still and affirm that we don’t check our freedoms in the locker room.”

It seems that to the public and media alike, dissent or the practice of free speech is only appreciated, encouraged and even unanimously accepted if they agree with it. If not, the “anti” labels are quickly thrown at them like brickbats.

Blacks and other people of color are too often convicted in the court of public opinion for what Zirin duly notes as the “crime of practicing dissent.”

“It’s easy to do that,” said Shuck. “No one has to address the root issues because it really doesn’t matter to [the mainstream]. He [Kaepernick] is being penalized for his actions.

“We need to be more cognizant of what people are saying and not saying,” Shuck concluded. “These are not new sentiments. It’s really disheartening.”

 

Information from The Nation.com was used in this column.

 Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

 

One Comment on “Athletes continue tradition of using platform to fight against injustice”

  1. It is amazing to me that we hold others (law enforcement) to a standard that we would not hold ourselves. We charge the justice department for injustice against minorities, when the actions of few corrupts the image of many. As a minority, my heart breaks for the division that our self-righteousness has caused. We condemn police for attacking minorities, why? We do not even condemn ourselves when we see some of our own people participating in gang violence, drug dealing and the sort. I am not making excuses for the badges that choose to use excessive force, but just like the men and women who wear a badge have to face the criticisms because the actions of a few, why can’t we also be held accountable for today’s culture. I know what it is like to face the injustice at the hands of law enforcement, but I also joined their ranks to make a difference. Watching my culture tear itself apart but point fingers at an external source. It is time to wake up to the truth. Social injustice is just that, what we are doing to one another. Our children are watching the hate, they will grow up with that hate as well if we do not stop the madness. We focus on the police, on the few bad apples. We destroy the businesses, and the peace of our own citizens with riots. Are we any better? Are we a culture moving forward? I say no. We exercise our freedom of speech, our right to protest, but we violate the rights of others to enterprise, to own businesses; of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My children can’t even enjoy their childhood because of the nonsense of a few. Before we speak out lets look within. Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch!

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