Category: Black Lives Matter

Literally All Talk And No Action, cont’d – Athletes Opt Out

 

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“We’re not your entertainment, we’re human beings.  Just like you would help your family, we want to help our mother, father, grandmother, everyone. ” Oregon safety Jevon Holland to Sports Illustrated.  Noble as the young man’s intentions may be here, it’s worth noting that during the three weeks of massive Black Lives Matter protests, these same concerns were essentially put on ice.

(Full Sports Illustrated article, referenced above, can be found here.)

There was actually a time where I assumed that sports, and football in particular, would put a dent in all this fear that’s permeated throughout our society. I really thought that as we approached football season, COVID panic would be no match for people’s desire to tailgate, get together on the weekend, head out to the bars etc. etc..

Man, was I wrong.

At the risk of sounding (or even being) patronizing, group narratives can overpower those who don’t think critically. For well longer than any of us have been alive, athletes have literally worked their asses off, to achieve their collegiate and professional dreams. Being afraid of the consequences was seen as a weakness- a sign that someone “just doesn’t want it enough.” ESPECIALLY in football, players are taking all KINDS of health risks- injuries and damage that can be with them for the rest of their lives. That’s never stopped them before, because they do it for the love of the game.

Effective this summer, that’s no longer the case. COVID-19, a virus whose main impacts are suffered primarily by unhealthy and/or elderly people- the exact OPPOSITE of an athlete’s profile- comes along, and what happens? These athletes, who have been training their entire lives for the opportunity to play at a national level, are being praised for NOT suiting up, thanks to the months of endless fear-peddling that has gripped America- a fear that has had far more of an effect on us collectively than the virus itself.

As someone who’s been far better in life at watching sports than playing them, one of the reasons I’ve been such a huge fan is because it provides an escape from the more troubling aspects of real life. Now? It’s become a reminder of them.

They Told Me To Listen, So I Went To A “Black Lives Matter” Protest. Here’s What I Heard…

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Source: MyCentralJersey.com

(For an “official” media account of the event, click here- https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/somerset-county/2020/06/07/george-floyd-somerville-nj-protest-draws-hundreds-second-day/3170002001/)

There are so many platitudes and cliches out there these days, it’s hard to remember that at one point, the words behind them actually had meaning.  Since the protests/riots/looting broke out, many on social media- particularly journalists- have been fond of telling us that we need to listen to what’s being said on the streets.  (Sometimes, they try to soften the sanctimony in their tones by including themselves- as in, “we need to listen”- but we know who they are referring to.)  My initial reaction was to just roll my eyes at the suggestion, but truth be told, it’s not a bad one.  I have spent my entire adult life criticizing the media’s disingenuous coverage of events.  For once, I was being given an opportunity to see what was going on for myself, as these Black Lives Matters protests are everywhere- and I do mean everywhere!

So this past Sunday, I headed over to downtown Somerville, where the event was being held.  I was relieved to see the crowd was relatively small- it was only 11 AM on a Sunday, so presumably, most people were still heading over.  The media has bent over backwards to refer to these as “peaceful protests”- regardless of the reality- and fortunately, this one actually was.  That’s not to say it made the experience a positive one overall, though.

Most of the crowd had signs, be it homemade or provided by the organizers.  Even though there was plenty of room to practice “social distancing”, nearly everyone in the crowd had masks on, as instructed by the event poster.  When one of the organizers politely asked if I needed a mask, I responded that I didn’t.  Rightly or wrongly, I interpreted his question as a loaded one- it wasn’t like I was standing that close to anybody else, let alone breathing on them- so I took a few steps back, to ensure I wasn’t offending anyone with my uncovered face.

The speaker was very energetic and impassioned.  She had excellent public speaking skills, and often commanded the crowd in chants and fist pumps, as if leading a pep rally, or a rock concert.  The suburban appearance of the crowd- diverse in age and ethnicity, filled with families and groups of young friends- starkly contrasted with the messages on the sign.  One young boy, probably no older than ten and definitely no older than twelve, held up a sign that said, “No justice, no peace!”  A middle-aged woman had a sign that said, “Silence is compliance!”  (With that kind of attitude, one can only imagine what the sign would think of someone who isn’t silent, but has a difference of opinion.)

Back to the speakershe told the crowd that she was tired of “her people” being killed on the streets, presumably by police officers.  (A cursory background check strongly indicates a suburban background.   By her own account, she is half-Italian, half-Jamaican.)  She then rattled off the same names we have been hearing in the news for several years- most notably, she included Michael Brown’s name in the group.  Now, as a suburbanite myself who has lived a somewhat sheltered life in many respects, I fully acknowledge that I do not know how big of a problem police brutality actually is.  However, for those trying to convince the rest of us that it is a huge problem, Brown is a terrible example of doing so.  Continuously invoking the name of a criminal, who assaulted a clerk that Brown had just robbed, and whose death was cleared of wrongdoing by the Obama Justice Department, seems like a bad-faith effort in trying to get those ill-informed to join their side.  (An effective tactic, but a disingenuous one nevertheless.)

The speaker than went on to say what needed to happen- namely, police needed to be held accountable for their wrongdoings (perfectly reasonable), and given additional education, potentially including…*record skip*…a bachelor’s degree.  At a time when society is (correctly) questioning the usefulness of college on the whole, adding this incredible criteria- complete with all the debt it would incur- seems ill-advised, to say the least.

As the crowd got larger and the events of the day were just getting started, mine was about to end.  The speaker admonished that while the protest would remain peaceful (drink!), the movement as a whole, in time, would resort to other methods, “if necessary”.  Did she say what those methods were?  I doubt it, but I can’t verify for sure.  I was done listening.

As I’m typing this, another Black Lives Matter is scheduled to begin a few hours from now.  With New Jersey still officially on lockdown (no, really!), I suppose this is the best entertainment that Somerville has to currently offer.  The problems out there range far and wide, and whatever is happening out there will likely be a major turning point in our society that many of us suspected- incorrectly, as it turned out- would occur after 9/11.  What kind of solutions are being offered out there?  Hopefully, better ones than than what was being suggested at this particular rally.