By Oliver Collins
Despite lack of support from some of the nation’s political leaders, national athletes will continue to fight for racial justice with their platforms.
As we enter the end of the election season, we can look into how sports have had a significant effect on the Black Lives Matter movement and in turn the upcoming presidential race. As we begin to contemplate an understanding of how much of a problem police brutality is and the significance the Black Lives Matter movement has on our current society we reflect on Donald Trump’s disregard for justice.
We go back to 2017, when our President was asked about a deadly melee in Virginia between white supremacist Neo Nazis and Liberals, Trump responded saying “You had some very fine people on both sides.” Trump’s quote shows that our president doesn’t believe in equality, however, some have stepped to the plate in the fight against racism. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling of the national anthem, a controversial viewpoint that brought tons of praise and criticism. The NBA’s response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, these are both brilliant examples of how athletes stand up to the racist system we see in America today.
Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem of what would be his final NFL game. Kaepernick stood for the movement saying, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
While many came to Colin’s aid, many immediately criticized him declaring that by kneeling for the national anthem he is in turn disrespecting the U.S flag and the veterans that put their lives on the line for their country. The truth is the former Nevada alumni was actually standing for the ongoing brutality being committed by police across America even to this day. Across sports kneeling had become mainstream…
During the second round of the 2020 NBA playoffs basketball teams including the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play Game 5 against the Orlando Magic due in part to the tragic shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Although this came after months of protests and political criticism of the way police handle certain instances, the Bucks organization released a quote stated by the players expressing their thoughts on the matter, “Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we've seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protesters," the players said a statement released by the team. "Despite the overwhelming pleas for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
It was extraordinary to see an entire organization shed light on such a prolific topic in today’s world and really show how united we can all become. The quote by the Bucks corporation really shows that we cannot go on living in a society that frightens us, we shouldn’t have to be afraid of the law enforcement that is here to protect us. Something that’s clear racism has a large part in.
Saint Mary’s educator Robert Bulman, a sociology professor who specializes in Race and Ethnicity Studies was kind enough to give some insight on how some of the current events we are encountering relate to sports involvement.
“Sports have always played an important role in helping us to make sense of society and social change. The social institution of sport is influenced by the culture around it just as it exerts influence on that culture. As with most institutions in society (politics, schools, the family, the economy, etc.) there is a fluid interchange between the wider society and the institution of sport. To try to put up a barrier between them is impossible. The relationship between sport and society is too porous. Whatever is grabbing the attention of society will also grab the attention of athletes.”
Professor Bulman also cites the example of when Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith simply raised a first to support racial justice, their medals were taken from them but even today we look to them for wisdom and understanding. Even Saint Mary’s Women’s basketball team are collaborating with the Black Lives Matter Movement, after interviewing Amy West, a member of the team. She expressed, “Student athletes have been gathering for Black Lives Matter zooms to educate basketball players. Just today, our coach asked us to share quotes for a slogan that responds to this specific issue.”
It’s great to see so many people discussing the movement on campus and among larger platforms. Many sports around the world are continuing to protest police brutality and racism through everything from kneeling to raising fists. To see how far we have come in terms of equality in just the last year alone is a phenomenon and continues to transform the society we live in today.
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Ryan Ford '23,