The movement isn’t stopping.
The sports world took a short pause when the Milwaukee Bucks were triggered to inaction by the video of yet another Black man being shot by a white police officer. The games and practices are back on, but players seem more dedicated than ever to make sure they use their position to reduce police violence in minority communities — and Black officers have their backs.
“There’s strength in unity,” Lynda R. Williams, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said. NOBLE boasts 3,000 members, including CEOs and command-level officers.
“Every part of our society, from law enforcement to community leaders and even to our sporting arena, when they make their voice unified and say, ‘We won’t tolerate this’ … I applaud them still having their hands on the pulse, and that they haven’t gotten so far removed by their position. That they realize when it comes to making a difference, we have to be unified. We have to stand together and say, ‘No more.’”
To end the short strike, the NBA and the Players’ union came to an agreement on making arenas into polling places and advocating for police and criminal justice overhauls.
It’s sorely needed. The nation has about 1.3 million prisoners, and nearly 40 percent of them are Black, according to The Sentencing Project. African Americans make up less than 15 percent of the U.S. population. African Americans are more than three times as likely to be killed by police, compared to their white counterparts, according to a recent Harvard University study.
It points toward systemic racism that prevents minority communities from easy access to adequate education and economic opportunity, while leaving them susceptible to overly aggressive police tactics.
“How, as Black officers, do we respond to this?” Williams asked, rhetorically. “First and foremost, we are professionals. We are the same men and women who are entrusted and sworn to carry out ‘to protect and serve.’ It does hurt us personally when we see our communities, when we see our brothers and sisters, always at the hand of injustice. And until the departments recognize that there’s a problem … (and) it has to come from the top. We have to recognize that there are racial differences, systemic racism throughout our departments. Not every law enforcement organization is (racist), but it is systemic. It’s part of our culture.”
‘You have to talk about the issues’
When the NBA shut down, other sports followed. NFL teams even took a day off training camp when there were no games to cancel.
“Big salute to those guys in basketball that boycotted those games,” Cardinals tackle DJ Humphries said. “They grabbed the whole country’s attention. You can’t talk about basketball anymore … you have to talk about the issues.”
It’s part of a huge shift that has seen more NFL players speak out about their political and social beliefs, encouraged by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who said he wished he had listened to Colin Kaepernick sooner.
It’s a commendable shift.
“As we think back to Colin Kaepernick,” said Williams, a former Secret Service agent, “when he was peacefully protesting, and that wasn’t recognized. And think about where we are today, where peaceful protesters are still coming under attack. It takes a global perspective, from the sports arena, from every walk of our society to make the difference. Individually, it might not make a difference, but when we start showing that this is our right, we have the right to protest. And when it hits the U.S. economy, with corporate America and the sporting industry plays a part, then it’ll get attention, because there’s strength in unity.”
She sees that unity in the throngs of protesters from all ethnic backgrounds around the U.S. this summer. It’s helped athletes to recognize their influence more now than ever before. It’s also giving them the confidence to use it.
‘It’s always there’
The summer of trauma, where the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and now Jacob Blake, have dominated the news, has been too much to take.
“It’s getting to a point now where it’s really not something you can compartmentalize or put outside of your mind,” Cardinals defensive lineman Corey Peters said. “It’s always there. It’s something that I think about. … I’d love for the owners and the NFL to take a step up and really lead the charge with the players. But one thing that’s clear to me is that a lot of them don’t really, fully understand the issues of our community. It’s gonna fall on the players to really step up and work with the owners and the league hand-in-hand to lead that charge.”
NFL players have discussed a strike of their own if things to improve, but they’re not ready to go there — not, yet. For now, they just want to play football and use the platform it affords to add to advocacy seen in the NBA, WNBA and other professional leagues.
“Everything has to be weighed,” Peters said. “… hopefully, we’ll find a solution that’s in everybody’s best interest.”
Here’s predicting that they will.
The movement isn’t stopping.
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