Athletes know it well: no pain, no gain.

Wikipedia Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman (silver medalist, left) from Australia also wears an OPHR badge in solidarity with Smith and Carlos.

After 400-plus years, one thing you can say about resilient Black Americans is that they are patient. Yes, another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot seven times in the back a week ago Sunday by yes, another White policeman. Sound familiar?

 Again, thanks to a witness with video cell phone footage that was posted online, the world again saw what happened. As expected, emotional outrage and a demand for justice has led to unrest and protest in Wisconsin.

A White 17-year-old boy and confirmed Donald Trump supporter from Illinois came to Kenosha armed with an automatic weapon, and police allowed him to kill two protestors. They did not attempt to stop him or arrest him. All of this while the Republican National Convention was taking place.

The Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA’s best team, refused to play game five of their playoff series with Orlando. After other NBA players refused to play, the NBA announced that two other playoff games were postponed. It’s been a historic week in social justice with sports leading as NBA players take a stance over the shooting of Jacob Floyd.

Major League Baseball, with only 8% of its players Black, postponed several games. Even the Twins, for the first time in franchise history, joined the social justice awakening by not playing against Detroit Thursday.

The WNBA also did not play for 48 hours—strong Black women. Tennis superstar and two-time Major Champion Naomio Osaka took a stance by not playing in her semi-final tennis match. “Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand,” said Osaka

The NHL and MLS also postponed games. White athletes like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and all the others, when another Black man or woman is killed by police, it doesn’t hit home with them. Black athletes, many of them born and raised in the inner city, have experienced the trauma of being pulled over by police and quietly sweating it out, praying they won’t be overpowered or shot or kneed to death.

Athletes love America. Playing games is not political. Black athletes really count. They know there is no justification for the 8.46 seconds by Minneapolis police in the torture killing of George Floyd.

On the basketball court at center court it says, “Black Lives Matter.” On the backs of NBA players’ jerseys are social statements. After all, the players in Orlando had voted to return to play on the weekend. We know now that LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers voted not to continue with the playoffs.

Throughout history Black athletes have sacrificed for change in America, some their careers. Remember 1968 Olympics Gold Medal winner Tommie Smith and teammate Bronze winner John Carlos, their courageous Black glove salute? Curt Flood challenged MLB’s reserve clause. Muhammad Ali refused to go to Vietnam. Colin Kaepernick, four years ago taking a knee; Jackie Robinson, 1947; Arthur Ashe.

The great Bill Russell, 11-time NBA Champion during his career, said, “I would give up NBA basketball without hesitation to assist the Civil Rights Movement in 1961.” Russell was happy to see this 2020 generation of players in an election year take a stand. That’s powerful.

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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