Black History is American History: Joining The Fight For Equality

During the taping for the Yahoo event Black History is American History NFL player and best selling author Sam Acho along with ESPN host Elle Duncan discuss how the sports world intersects with the social justice movement.

Video Transcript

- Our next video question comes to us thanks to James Lipscomb and addresses the social justice movement.

JAMES LIPSCOMB: My question is, how do you get people to care about movements and causes that don't look like them nor directly impact their lives.

- OK Sam I have to come to you for this one.

- Yeah so for me it's funny. Just recently in Chicago-- so I played for the Bears for four years and got a chance to build some great relationships. And just recently, we got a chance to get people from all different walks of life. Pro athletes, collegiate athletes, people from the community, police officers, et cetera. And sit down and see what was going on in the community. This was in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the wake of Ahmaud Arbery's murder. And we said, we have to do something.

And so we got a chance to get together, and first we listened. We just listened to some of the young black kids in the community saying things like, man I feel like things will never change. I feel like things will always be the same. So we sat and we listened, right? I think the first step for people who are looking for what to do is you listen. But then second, we took action.

Once we listened, we actually took a tour, we were on the west side of Chicago in a neighborhood called Austin. And we took a tour of the Austin neighborhood. And we saw, yes there was rioting and yes there were looting, the things you saw on TV. But there was a much bigger disparity. I was with Jason Heyward, who plays for the Chicago Cubs. I asked Jason-- I said, Jason how many grocery stores have you seen on our 30 minute tour? He said, one. I said, how many liquor stores have you counted on our 30 minute tour? He said, over 10. There is a problem.

And so what we got a chance to do-- people who didn't look like us or think like us. But we got a chance to get together and say, let's actually do something tangible, physical, that you can see and touch and feel for the kids. We raised about a half a million dollars and we bought up a liquor store and turned it into a food mart, right? You're seeing things come from death to life. And so there are certain topics that may not affect people who look like you.

But especially coming from the perspective of an athlete, I think the intersection of athletics and justice, they seem like they're always intertwined. I feel like that makes people care. And so when you see your athletes from different teams, different cities, stepping up speaking up-- not just NFL, NBA. Not just NBA, WNBA. They were really the forefront of-- the WNBA was really the forefront of some of the social justice movement you saw this year. You see your favorite athletes stepping up and speaking up, you're going to follow suit.

- Elle, I want to come to you next. Picking up on what Sam is saying there about how sports can really be a force in the social justice movement.

ELLE DUNCAN: Well yes, sports and social justice have always been intertwined. It's why it's so funny to me when I hear people-- sort of the stick to sports crowd, and the rhetoric around that about how, you know, especially my establishment is too political. And people don't want that. They want it as a distraction. It feels like sometimes that crowd picks and chooses, you know?

You go back to 1936 and Jesse Owens was the pride of the Olympics. And why? Because he quite literally had to outrace white supremacy. Like, he had to be the guy to prove Adolf Hitler wrong, that white people were not just composed to be better and faster and stronger than black people. And he was the pride of America. And then he came home to America, and he couldn't get any work despite the fact that he was an Olympian that stood in the face of Hitler and said, not today Hitler. Like, all of these things that we love to pat ourselves on the back for. And then the man had to come home and race horses and dogs and motorcycles at fairs, at carnivals, because he couldn't actually earn a living.

So the idea that these athletes need to just accept the fact that they have benefited from a capitalist country that allows you to sort of live the American dream and to come from nothing and to have all of this glory. That they should somehow just be appreciative and shut up and sit down is laughable to me, because when they leave the protection of that field or of those stadiums or wherever it is that they are, they are simply just black people.

Ask Tory Hunter when he was in his front yard and had police pull a gun on him because they couldn't accept or understand or believe that a black man would be rich enough to live in that particular neighborhood. They didn't care that he was a World Series champ and on and on and on.

And we see this continue to happen over and over and over again. So I do, to Sam's point, I think that using your platform to try to raise awareness is not only the responsibility that has been sort of lumped on those of us with a platform. But it's a right and a privilege as well, frankly, to be able to say to whoever is listening that this is wrong and to shed light on the moral issues that are affecting this country, because that is not a political issue. Social justice and inequality, that is not a political issue. It is a moral issue. And as such affects every citizen of the country, whether you buy their jersey or not.