Tensions on the field.
A moment of unity disrupted by ignorance.
Imagine, if you will, being at the professional level of whatever sport you play and getting ready to perform for a max capacity crowd during an ongoing pandemic. You’ve followed the given guidelines, respected your medical staff’s wishes and have continued to work so that you can provide a hell of a show for those watching. However, you also want to continue making a necessary statement against issues surrounding your country and the policies in place that allow it, so you peacefully protest before the big opening day game. The result? Well despite putting your well-being on the line in a professional sport, and despite doing your best to show your frustrations with current issues at play, your actions are met with boos.
Taking yourself out of the headspace, this was exactly the feeling that the opening game day of the NFL experienced. Both teams and their staff meet for a moment of unity on the field to raise awareness towards ongoing issues including police brutality. That moment, unfortunately, was met with the so-called “fan reaction” of boos or negative response. The usual excuses were made: “there shouldn’t be politics in sports,” “just do your job,” etc, etc.
The thing is, being a fan of football (among other sports), I’m sick of the behaviour from these individuals. The same individuals that said they were going to boycott the NFL, or the NBA, or whatever league is trying to get the message across that there’s a real genuine problem going on. The sheer disrespect on display is unfathomable, but yet here it is on a daily basis. Call it ignorance, call it stupidity, call it being a privileged asshole, just don’t call it acceptable behaviour.
Honestly, I’ve always been of the mind that sports should be cancelled to try and send a direct message towards people that feel an athlete should just do their job and play on. Of course, there are other actual fans out there that appreciate the efforts that are being made with regards to ongoing tensions in the world, so it quickly becomes a factor of “where do you draw the line?”
At the very least, it’s positive to see how the leagues themselves now are starting to make efforts to bring issues to the forefront. Recently, the NFL had allowed players to put the names of victims affected by police brutality on their helmets to raise awareness. This is, of course, just another small step in a very long journey towards beneficial outcomes for everyone, but it’s a step nonetheless.
I just hope that people will smarten up moving forward from this regrettable event, but I’m not holding my breath. The sports world has always been filled with those who want to silence the voices of individuals that simply wish to make a statement or try to make a peaceful difference. As an example, let’s go as far back as 1883, where Cap Anson, a member of the Chicago White Sox, wouldn’t play against catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker in an exhibition game due to his skin colour. Charlie Morton, the manager, took a stand and started Walker, who was injured at the time. The game went ahead as planned, marking a huge positive development in baseball’s heavily influenced colour barrier baseball at the time. Issues still came for years afterwards, but this example, despite its age, still holds up considering what occurred not but more than a week ago.
So, from me to you, do know that politics do belong in sports, as they belong in all aspects of life. It’s that discussion of politics in sports that always calmer and more knowledgeable heads to prevail at the end of the day. If anything, just think before you act. It ain’t as hard as you think.