When addressing the way of the world, sports always seems to have its moments. For example, following the events of 9/11, New York had an emotional MLB game. The New York Mets played the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium in New York; tears were shed, and as Hilary Giorgi put it, “Baseball helped heal the nation after 9/11”.
In 2013, Boston suffered its own tragedy; the Boston Marathon was under a terroristic attack. Two days following this attack, The Boston Bruins played the Buffalo Sabres. The pregame national anthem was carried on solely by the crowd at one point. Sports have had a funny way of healing these kinds of things.
Fast forward to 2020, almost a year ago now, where the unlawful death of George Floyd reunited the flames of a movement not so welcomed before. Backed by a simple statement, the ‘Black Lives Matter” movement is an international protest in defense of African Americans being wrongfully killed by police. It began in 2013 with Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman.
The protests took to unrest in the streets of Baltimore, following the death of Freddie Gray. The protests gained steam in New York City and St Louis after two more men were killed in each area. After seven years, BLM again, unfortunately, found themselves in national headlines because of Floyd’s death.
When Black Lives Matter began in 2013, there was a lot of push back against the movement. In sports, there WAS a sole face of BLM. Where supporters grew thin and the thoughts of sticking to sports rang loud and within, Colin Kaepernick shouted back with a small yet grand gesture. During each game’s anthem, he took a knee. Alike to Tim Tebow’s attribution to god following a touchdown, Kaepernick would take the moment to show his utmost support for the lives lost to injustice during the country’s anthem. In sports, to no one’s knowledge, Kaepernick then was a giant among men.
After years of speaking out and pushing for this cause and what he viewed as a right, Kaepernick was out of the NFL. Four years following scrutiny from everywhere even as high as the oval office, the NFL had backtracked. In their released statement, the NFL even stated that it was “wrong for not listening to players earlier” and left a lasting remark when encouraging that “all players speak out and peacefully protest”, and should do so within their rights.
Sports teams from not only the United States but around the world began to echo the statement once viewed as heinous and outrageous. Sports teams would stand in unity, kneel, and raise their fists, players in many leagues became ambassadors for the movement, and fields, rinks, courts, and stadiums alike had quotes, murals, symbols, and even just the words “Black Lives Matter”.
Now after a year in the making, things have changed. The battlegrounds for these sports are no longer billboards for the movement. It may be to drive a sense of normalcy, with the current pandemic edging closer to the corner of its end, or to give false hope of things have changed following the deaths, protests, arrests, and then subsequently more deaths.
It’s a scary thought when hearing Adam Silver the commissioner of NBA state, “I understand those people who are saying, but I want to watch a basketball game.” It’s a scary thought knowing that though strong in these moments of struggle, unrest, and hate that for sports, in a way it all just can fade to white noise; there may be further to come for sports and the BLM movement.
They may continue to seek justice as a unit. It also very well could slip into another in the moment thing for the national sports leagues in the United States and the rest of the world. As time passes, some things become less important and others more. What I can hope is that what’s already been done was enough, and if not, that there is more to come.