“Sports are like the reward of a functioning society."
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle said that in July.
This was during conversations about coming back to play during COVID-19. While the coronavirus is still spreading quickly, this country is facing another pandemic, one that’s been going on for 400 years.
We shouldn’t keep having athletes play sports in the midst of this pandemic in the face of racial injustice. Quite frankly, we don’t deserve sports as a country.
We are far from being a functioning society — actually the furthest from it we have been in a while. The main push for trying to bring sports back was to try to bring a sense of normalcy in the midst of utter chaos.
As a sports writer, I’m not going to act like it wasn’t tough not being able to watch, write or talk about live sports for months. However, as a Black man, it was even tougher realizing that this country was trying to proceed past the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor like they seemingly didn’t happen.
Trying to make living in a country that doesn’t value you seem normal is an unjust gimmick that's been played out for far too long. Sports can't be a distraction from real life right now, and the players have as much of a role in that as the fans.
We need to take the time to look this issue right in its face. We can’t keep looking away from this ugly reality.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was very vocal in his disapproval of the NBA playing in the Orlando bubble because he realized the mainstream distraction basketball would bring. He was in turn demonized by sports media members and fans for voicing his opinion, but he was correct.
Last week when the NBA players went on a strike after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, talks of ending the season were seemingly on the table. I was watching everything and became excited, thinking the players actually realized the level of power they had and were ready to use it. I was disappointed when not even 48 hours had passed that it was announced that they were resuming the playoffs.
All this happened just for owners to make their arenas voting centers. That’s not something you shed tears or stop working for. Voting isn’t going to fix this because there isn’t a ballot that has the option “Black people shall be treated equal and shall stop getting killed senselessly by police.”
Setting up voting centers was the NBA taking the easy way out, after creating a situation they weren’t prepared to face. They essentially told themselves as a league to “Shut up and Dribble."
The WNBA has always stepped up to the plate to combat social injustices. I salute them for that. I commend them for being willing to take a stand for the rights of marginalized groups regardless of what outcome that could have on their playing careers.
Maya Moore sacrificed the prime of her career to fight for a cause she felt was worth it. She still has her platform, but she isn’t playing basketball, she’s making substantial change. I really don’t want to hear the excuse from NBA players that not playing basketball takes away their platform. That’s bull. Many players have a celebrity status that doesn’t go away because they stop dribbling a basketball.
I often think about a tweet from UNC wide receiver Dyami Brown in June. Many Black athletes seem to share this same sentiment and it’s disheartening to see.
Players and teams speak out against what’s unjust in society and receive so much backlash from “supporters” that it’s disgusting. Black athletes on every level have to go through so much mentally while also being expected to give their best in an athletic capacity, and that isn’t fair.
There are simply too many people that have no problem cheering for the athlete that wears the number seven on their back when they compete, but have difficulty with speaking up about how wrong it was for Jacob Blake to get shot by police seven times in the back.
This is why sports should stop. That shouldn’t be the normal we are seeking to get back to.
Until “normal” consists of strides actually being made by those with power to alleviate the burden that Black people face in this country, sports can wait.
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