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Column: Why 'sticking to sports' is no longer an option

June 2, 2020
The crowd at the protest in Lansing against police brutality May 31, 2020.
The crowd at the protest in Lansing against police brutality May 31, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News


Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “To see the right and not to do it is cowardice.” 

As the Twitter era has grown, the phrase “stick to sports” has been littered in any sports journalist or athletes replies section of any tweet that bears any type of political statement. 

“Shut up and dribble,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said to LeBron James. 

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, 'get that son of a b---- off the field right now,’” President Donald Trump said in response to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem. 

As the cries for justice grow louder after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer — yes, I think holding a knee on someone’s neck for nine minutes while they plead they cannot breathe is murder — protests have been sparked around the country. Many athletes around the nation have come out in solidarity by issuing statements advocating for change and even joining the many protests across the country.  

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns joined a protest just weeks after the passing of his mother due to COVID-19. Former NBA star Stephen Jackson, who was friends with Floyd, has been at the forefront in demanding action in this movement and justice for his dear friend. Even the leaders of Michigan State’s athletic program, Tom Izzo, Mel Tucker and Suzy Merchant, have all made statements demanding action. Across our nation, the sports world is rejecting the notion of “sticking to sports” for the first time. 

To the "stick to sports" crowd, I reject you. 

I wrote a column back in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States about how sports couldn’t be an avenue for solace for the first time.  

What I didn’t realize is that they never were a solace. 

Sports, despite the façade that they put up, are not a true way to escape reality for a couple hours because they often mirror the reality we have to live in on a daily basis. 

Currently, we live in a country where it is OK for a rookie kicker with a white supremacist tattoo to be drafted into the NFL while a quarterback who led a team to the Super Bowl is unemployed because he peacefully protested police violence in the United States. That same league is considering implementing rewards for teams who hire minority head coaches and general managers because the owners of the teams in the NFL have proven incapable of doing so without any type of motivation. 

In the English Premier League, Chelsea has had to ban fans for launching racist slurs at players on opposing teams. In the NBA, they have had to remove Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling when tapes were released where you could hear Sterling pleading to his girlfriend not to bring African Americans to Clippers games. In 2017, a Boston Red Sox fan berated outfielder Adam Jones with racist slurs, and the fan even threw a projectile at Jones from the stands. 

I cannot believe I have to echo this statement, but this is wrong. The reason the “stick to sports” argument does not work is because racism is just as prominent in sports as it is everywhere else. 

As a white male, I am not the one who has to live in fear each day because of the color of my skin. I am not the one who has to shake and tremble when the police pull me over and pray that the police officer who just pulled me over is one of the good guys. As a sports journalist, I write about student-athletes who have to live in fear and face injustices each day just because of the color of their skin. When it pertains to these issues of blatant racism many in the African American community face, my remaining silent makes me compliant in the injustices many face each and every day. I will not be compliant.

My platform to speak may be small with only 154 Twitter followers and no blue check next to my name like the rest of my colleagues, but that will not keep me silent from me speaking out and using my platform to fight for what I know is right. While this fight might not pertain to me, sitting idly by and not speaking out about these issues makes me compliant.

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Many people across the nation are with the protesters who are fighting the injustices many of our fellow Americans have to face each day, but they do not want to join the protests because of COVID-19 concerns. To those people, you are 100% justified in your concerns, but do not let that stop you from being vocal — speak out and use your platform. I urge everyone to use whatever platform they have to try and make a change, however big or small it may be. Even if that means having discussions with your family or sitting down and listening to the communities that face these injustices, it will still make a huge difference in the fight against systematic racism. 

I applaud organizations like the Baltimore Ravens who recently pledged $1 million for Baltimore-based social justice programs and the many players who have spoken out against injustices in the United States, but I plead with them to continue to fight for equality in our nation even when the light is not shined upon them. To the ones choosing to remain on the sidelines, your silence is deafening. 

The only way we can make real change is if we all speak up, advocate for change, and hold the powerful accountable by exercising our right to vote come November and elect those who will enact change and not empty promises.  

To the sports community, I plead with all of you, professional athletes, student-athletes, coaches, owners, sports writers, broadcasters, commentators, fans — please don’t stick to sports. Our world needs you now more than ever. 


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