Sports protests: An evolving situation with no hot takes

Jay Busbee
·4 mins read

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Good morning, friends. You made it to another Friday. That’s cause for a medal these days. Reward yourself.

I am a sportswriter. That means, by law, I’m supposed to be able to thunder down with instant Hot Takes on any sports subject imaginable: The Astros are cheating dogs! James Harden can’t win the big one! Tom Brady will flounder in Tampa Bay! Tiger Woods will win the Masters again! You get the idea.

But right now? Right now, friends, I have no Hot Takes. I have no takes at all. (Tip: beware anyone who claims they’ve got this all figured out. They don’t.) In these literally unprecedented times, I have no idea which way the wind will blow next. It’s … unsettling.

To recap a remarkable last 48 hours: Wednesday night, multiple NBA teams walked off the floor to protest in the name of social justice. Teams all across the sporting universe joined them, from the WNBA to MLS to baseball to football. There was talk that NBA players would scuttle the entire playoffs. We were already in uncharted territory, and that would require a whole new map.

Thursday, NBA players apparently decided to keep going with the playoffs at some as-yet-undetermined future date, possibly Saturday. But wait! Multiple NFL teams still halted practice, baseball teams again refused to take the field, and then hockey jumped in the scrum, canceling all of its Stanley Cup playoff games for the night.

Which way is up? Which way is forward? Who knows?

The principle driving all this is at once both sadly straightforward and infinitely complex. Black players and their allies are pushing for social justice in a country that all too often fails to deliver on its great promise.

Strange days indeed. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Strange days indeed. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

“It's amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday, and that’s the heart of it right there: an entire segment of Americans who feel unwelcome, unloved, unsafe in their own country.

But how do we get from here to a racial utopia? That’s the question we’ve wrestled with as a country for centuries, and a few postponed basketball games aren’t going to solve the problem.

This is an immensely dispiriting situation, from any angle. Nobody’s happy. Nobody’s “winning.” A whole lot of people aren’t even bothering to listen. All this back-and-forth can be healthy — like a relationship, a society can only advance when it brings its pain out into the open — but 2020 is asking all of us to find emotional reserves we’ve never tapped before. Some are rising to the challenge, some are turning their backs on it all, but nobody's enjoying this.

As sports fans, this all mucks with the very foundation of our fandom: the calendar. Right up until 2020, we could count on enjoying our favorite sports, whatever they might be, at the same time every year: the Super Bowl in February. March Madness in, well, March. Baseball and the Masters in April. NBA and NHL playoffs in June. College football and the NFL in September. And so on, a comforting sameness every year.

Not anymore. Almost nothing is where it should be in the calendar. On top of the uncertainty about whether games will be played because of COVID-19, we now add the uncertainty of whether games will be played because of political protest. It’s part of a deeply unsettling 2020 that’s left us all adrift. (It’s going to take us a long time to recover from this year’s assault on our mental health, but that’s a story for another day.)

Bottom line: I don’t have any answers. I have opinions, just like you, but no certainty. So we keep pressing onward, hoping for resolution, hoping to get people to listen to points of view other than their own, hoping there’s not another shaky cellphone video this weekend that sets progress back once again.

I’ll enjoy the hell out of every game, race, match and tournament that runs this weekend … and I’ll keep my mouth shut and try my level best to understand why other games don’t.

Stay safe, everyone, and we’ll see you Monday.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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