Keep talking & dribbling: athletes deserve support in fighting racial injustice

ben wrixon
Photo: 

The intersection between sports and politics is more pronounced—and divisive—than ever before. Going forward, we must support athletes leading the fight against injustices.

Racial tensions are high as the COVID-19 pandemic compounds global stress. At a time when powerful leaders are continuously demonstrating their incompetence, professional athletes are fighting the systemic oppression rooted in societal institutions and constructs.

Consider the NBA restart. The courts say ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the Orlando bubble and most players kneel during the national anthems. However, every time a player demands justice for Breonna Taylor or anyone wronged by police, they receive serious pushback from their President and limited support from their organizational leaders.

 Many would prefer they “shut up and dribble.”

 Chief among them is President Donald Trump, who openly shamed the NBA and its players for their activism. Don’t forget Philadelphia Flyers Head Coach Alain Vigneault; he openly chose ignorance when asked about the shooting of Jacob Blake. Fans booed as the NFL season kicked off with players linking arms in support of racial unity—they’re guilty, too.  

 These societal leaders positioned[CS1]  to initiate change keep refusing to take action. President Trump’s regressive rhetoric is soaked with ignorance and hostility. In Canada, Premier Doug Ford recently glossed over the historical mistreatment of BIPOC Canadians. It’s by necessity that athletes have become leaders in these conversations.

 Players shouldn’t ‘stick to sports.’ We, as those fortunate enough to watch these talented athletes compete, must celebrate the players for speaking up against the injustices plaguing North American society. Their bravery deserves our support.

 Yet, ignorance continually dominates the dialogue. Misguided critics and self-branded patriots insist anthem protests are disrespectful toward armed forces. In reality, these protests are pleas from athletes requesting heroic sacrifices not be squandered by racism and bigotry.

 Sports are more than games. They unite groups of people, bring joy, and in some cases, heartbreak. To be entertained by Black athletes like LeBron James and Lamar Jackson while restricting their freedom of speech and expression is exploitation of Black talent.

 Think about what ‘Black Lives Matter’ means when you see it written on NBA courts. Systemic racism takes lives; insisting players should ignore this racial inequality is the facilitation of white privilege.

 Those who can’t see that are the ones who need to shut up.

 Ben Wrixon is a third-year Psychology major and The Journal’s Opinions Editor.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.