The black athlete using their platform to protest racism has always been met with vitriol. No matter the amount of success on the court or respect fans held for them as a player, that respect very often did not follow them off the field of play.
- The black athlete using their platform to protest racism has always been met with vitriol. No matter the amount of success on the court or respect fans held for them as a player, that respect very often did not follow them off the field of play. Bill Russell, an active voice in the Civil Rights Movement, is one of the most successful and intellectually brilliant men alive. But in 1963, after he'd won two NCAA championships, an Olympic gold medal, and six NBA championships in Boston, vandals broke into his home, shit on his bed, and smeared it on the walls.
LeBron James has been very vocal about the black experience in America. And the n-word was sprayed across his home in 2017.
LEBRON JAMES: You know, being black in America is-- it's tough. And we got a long way to go.
- In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists after winning gold and bronze representing the US. They were immediately suspended and came home to death threats.
Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest out of respect for the wishes of the army vet, and not only received death threats, but hasn't had an opportunity to play football since.
COLIN KAEPERNICK: I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom. They fight for the people. They fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that's not happening.
- It has been around 50 years between the older and more current events. And the responses are shockingly similar. A lot has changed, but a lot hasn't. That's why Drew Brees' comments weren't just considered tone-deaf, they're disturbing.
DREW BREES: --displayed, and when I look at the flag of the United States, I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II.
- He, selfishly, amplified his personal feelings, putting them before his black counterparts' actual realities, as well as ignoring the 1.2 million black soldiers who served alongside his grandparents, who came home and weren't allowed to enjoy the same rights they risked their own lives to uphold. This lack of understanding is at the root of today's civil unrest.
The great, peaceful Martin Luther King was quite possibly the most hated man in America prior to being assassinated. And he once said, shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than the absolute misunderstanding of people of ill will. He also said a riot is the language of the unheard. So like Malcolm Jenkins poignantly stated--
MALCOLM JENKINS: But sometimes you should shut the fuck up.
- --and start listening. And based on what we've seen throughout the nation, people have started to listen. All 50 states have been involved in protests. Company leaders are having the uncomfortable conversations that have been avoided for too long. This time feels different.
But let's make sure to keep this same energy when the dust settles. Let's make sure this isn't a trend, but just the beginning of long-term change. Let's make sure black voices can still be heard without black lives being lost as a catalyst.