If you're talking about athletes making a stand, they've already made their point
Welcome to the year professional athletes became aware of their voices. Yes, you heard me right, they've made themselves vocal, heard and are willing to do something they've not always been in the past.
I can already tell you before I finish this column, at least 40% of you will vehemently disagree with NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL players walking away from games in the name of mistreated Blacks and other minorities no matter what I say or what they say.
My voice is not one that has experienced what any of these athletes or what minorities in America have experience. It's only one that has seen some of the injustice done to others and continually does not understand why it has always been that way or why it can't change.
And honestly, I'm pretty confident in saying there's very little I can say that's going to change your mind because that 40% is completely entrenched in their position and while they may hear, they aren't necessarily willing to listen.
You can argue the athletes are trying to rally and tell you to support Black Lives Matter movement. That decision is up to you. But when it comes to equal justice for minorities, they're right. 100% right. The problem they have and you have is you're hearing two different things.
For Blacks and other minorities, it's about racial equality. Equal treatment for equal behavior, something statistically has been proven to not nor never have happened. Every time someone such as Jacob Blake is shot by police officer, it only amplifies the message. And its a message you should be listening to.
So many people say "All Lives Matter" when they hear "Black Lives Matter" which only amplifies the point. Nowhere in that statement does anyone say all lives don't matter, they do. It simply means "In order for ALL lives to matter, Black lives need to matter too".
To be perfectly honest with you, if you're one of the people who have reacted via social media or in conversation with someone else about players refusing to play or making a stand, the athletes have succeeded. They got your attention. THAT is the whole point.
It's not about just sitting back and taking it, not about watching and bitching about "entitled" athletes or "shut-up and play", it's all about people talking. For decades and arguably generations, the conversations have never happened and are long, long overdue.
If you're my age or close, you grew up idolizing athletes. There was a time not long ago where we all got mad at them for not speaking up on social issues. See Jordan, Michael or Woods, Tiger from the 1990's and early 2000's. There was a time not too long ago where we said athletes should use their podium for good when they weren't, that they should weigh in when they weren't. They now are doing that, what changed?
Sure, you can sit back behind the keyboard and say "Well, they're encouraging rioting and violent protests are wrong". I can't debate that. But I'll ask you this: If you've been trying to get your voice heard for hundreds of years and nobody listens, what would YOU do to get peoples attention?
Think about that for a minute.
Listen....I hope you aren't that person who says "Shut up and play" or "They get paid money to play, I don't care about their opinion" because if you do---YOU are the problem. Yeah, I said it. If you are a friend reading this and want to argue that with me, we can debate it rationally, but I'm not going to back down from the statement.
First and foremost, professional athletes are people. They are human beings with thoughts, feelings, beliefs and personal lives. Yes, they get paid a lot of money to entertain you, but I'm pretty comfortable saying if you ask them, they'll tell you they play to compete and enjoy it before they'd say they play to perform for you.
It is frightening to see just how many people either don't understand this or don't care.
Sitting on your couch and saying, "They're killing their TV ratings" or nobody will watch is completely irrelevant to the conversation. Sure, you can sit there and argue the TV deals are what pays their salaries. Some of you can and have said what do they care as long as they get paid. If that's the case, you don't understand other people. More specifically your projecting your beliefs on them.
I cannot begin to describe how impressed I've been to see how the NBA players have gone about their business while trying to navigate playing basketball isolated from their entire lives in order to finish a season. It's an imperfect solution to an imperfect problem, but they're trying.
And as a majority Black sport, it appears the individuals are dying inside to see what is happening in their worlds.
If you want to know why they care so much about what happens to other Blacks in the U.S., ask them about their experiences out in public. Ask an NBA player if they've been pulled over because they're driving a fancy car in a questionable neighborhood. Or in some cases ANY neighborhood. Ask them if they've been harassed, insulted, called racial slurs during games or walking the streets. Ask them if they feel like they've been profiled by police. Look up what happened a couple years ago to then Atlanta Hawks Thabo Shefalosa at a New York nightclub. He was leaving after police tried to clear the club and viciously beaten with a club until his leg was broken for being tall and black. He would later win a big judgement in a lawsuit against the city. It's only one example.
There was a quote I read this week which encapsulates everything about athletes and social activities better than anything I can say: If life were like a sports locker room we all would be in a much, much better place. (I don't recall the exact verbiage)
There is truth to that.
To see what the NBA has done, that Major League Baseball is following in their footsteps and Major League Soccer and the NHL are adding their support should tell you something. This speaking out. This awakening and realization change needs to happen isn't going away. It's only going to get louder until something is done. I love this.
Hopefully the NFL will follow and join the chorus. That would drive the point home. If for no other reason than the NFL is the big dog in sports, it's voice the loudest. They fumbled their first attempt at doing this due in large part to the billionaire owners balking, the players are getting handed their second chance.
I know, at the end of the day, the headlines are going to be about death and destruction that are both the cause and effect of racial injustice. Think about it for a minute. The last six words sum up what this is all about.
I speak largely for myself when I say I've never looked at a minority as any different than me. They aren't. Just like you and me, Blacks, Latinos and people from other countries are absolutely no different than you and I.
When I was a kid, I played competitive sports all over south and central Florida. I was lucky enough to be exposed to other kids from a gigantic variety of cultures and at the end of the day, when I think about the hate some people have for others, I think back to what one of my early coaches once said.
"Just remember, everyone in the other locker room puts on ties their shoes just like you do". It's something I took to heart then and reflect on nearly every day.
I just wish more people lived their lives with that thought in mind.