There is no bright side to unarmed Black men getting gunned down by police officers as whimsically as they would hail a cab. It’s all very dark and horrific, scary and sad. At the same time, it has been enlightening, and not just from learning how much hate and fear fills the heart when it comes to African-American males.
It has also been enlightening to witness an era of complacent athletes grow up as we watch. The kids today have been docile and less involved in social or political issues, either afraid speaking out would hurt their brand or just not caring enough. Turns out, they care a lot.
An athlete speaking out on an issue as huge as Ferguson and the other atrocities will not change the world. But the collective observation of the wrongs by professional athletes brings awareness and can make a difference by inspiring others, their fans, to get involved, too. And it speaks significantly about the level of people’s anger, disappointment, sadness and fatigue over the rash of unwarranted killings—and the injustice that the shooters are not held accountable.
It’s truly a big deal when today’s athletes are fed up. They get it: It could be them shot in the street or strangled in a choke hold or it could be their kids or nephew shot at a playground. The examples of police killing Black males are so rampant and so frightening that they agree with much of the rest of the world—something has to be done.
The same day NBA commissioner Adam Sliver said he wished players would not make political statements in their pre-game attire, the Los Angles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and teammates wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, at once honoring fallen Eric Garner, who gasped that expression as a Staten Island cop choked and eventually killed him.
Why would Silver call for the players to squash their emotions about the disheartening cases and their support for justice? He should actually be proud that the players get it and are not afraid of any misguided ramifications that could come from showing political and social awareness. This is Silver’s first misplay as commissioner.
Here’s Bryant: “I think it’s us supporting that movement and supporting each other as well as athletes. I think the beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for the things that we believe in, I think we really lose the value that our country stands for.”
Kobe added: “It’s important that we have our opinions. It’s important that we stand up for what we believe in and we all don’t have to agree with it and it’s completely fine. That’s what makes this a beautiful country.”
The beauty of America is threatened when Black men’s lives are taken with such recklessness. That’s why it has been impressive to see the activism by high-profile athletes like Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, the five players from the St. Louis Rams who raised their hands in a “Don’t shoot” posture, reminiscent, some witnesses said, to that of Michael Brown before he was shot in Ferguson, Mo., by officer Darren Wilson.
The sports world is a big world, and their inclusion in the rejection of the violence helps ignite the message.
More from Bryant:
“I think it would be a serious disservice to limit this to a race issue. It’s a justice issue. You’re kind of seeing a tipping point right now, in terms of social issues. It’s become now at the forefront right now as opposed to being a local issue. It’s really been something that has carried over and spilled into the mainstream, so when you turn on the TV and you watch the news or you follow things on social media, you don’t just see African-Americans out there protesting.
“It’s become a thing where people are really standing up for their rights and really questioning the justice system and questioning the process of the legal system and those who have authority—and whether or not they’re abusing authority and what’s the threshold to use deadly force and so forth and so on. But that’s what our nation is founded on, man. We have the ability to question these things in a peaceful fashion. That’s what makes us a great country. We have the ability to voice up, we have the platform to speak up, and we have the platform to effect change.”
And there you have it. Refreshing that such sentiments are coming from today’s spoiled and coddled athlete. Unlike Charles Barkley, they apparently are not living in a glass bubble. They see the world as it is. . . and are not afraid to say they don’t like what they see. Good for them.