By Jimmy Muniz Jr
The Black Lives Matter movement, re-ignited by the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, forced the response of professional sports organizations to take a stand on behalf of communities of color this summer.
Flashback to 2016 when NFL player Collin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. It sparked major backlash from many fans and news outlets. Kaepernick went from sitting during the anthem to kneeling that entire season until that off-season when he was informed that he would be released by the organization which led to him to opt out of his contract and becoming a free agent, which he is still today.
While Kaepernick was looked down upon then, today we look back and understand the important message Kaepernick was trying to spread about racial injustice and police brutality.
Now the Major League Baseball Association (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Football League (NFL), have stepped in and started supporting the Black Lives Matter movement along with promoting it among several news outlets and during games which are televised worldwide daily.
While several organizations released videos in support of the movement along with having fields or jerseys changed with players approvals, the NFL appeared to be one of the organizations who “appears to be tone deaf,” according to Triplepundit.
The NFL, unlike other sports organization, failed to put forth any visual statements until September 1, 2020 when they announced they will be joining many other sports leagues and organizations to use their facilities and resources to promote social justice, according to NBC Sports.
Their initial silence led to Nike rebooting its famous “Just Do It” campaign, the face of which is Kaepernick. As of Sept. 1, the NFL pledged to financially support the Black Lives Matter movement after the NBA did so in late Feb. 2018.
The NBA began to demonstrate their allegiance with the movement after a 2018 incident when Lauren Ingraham told basketball star LeBron James to “shut up and dribble.” Ingraham’s comment came after James was featured in an ESPN podcast where he shared his opinion on how President Trump was failing to acknowledge the serious issues faced by African Americans in the United States.
“You’re great players, but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach,” said Ingraham on a live Fox newscast. “So, keep the political commentary to yourself.”
The MLB has made sure to do as much as enlisting the Players Alliance, a non-profit organization consisting of 150 current and former major league baseball players, to create a video which was played on the jumbotron and was shown on national television, featuring baseball players of color who state that there is a need for change.
“We will not wait any longer, we will make our voices louder for all of those who can and all of those who can't,” they said.
According to the New York Times, on opening day if July 23, players all joined before the game and kneeled while holding a 200-yard black cloth that stretched around the foul line as they took a 60-second kneel of silence. This act was a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Forbes Magazine reported on Aug. 6 that “the NBA is to donate $300 million over the next decade to boost economic growth in the Black community.”
The primary goal for this financial gift is to overcome inequities in communities surrounding educational and youth employment.
In addition, the NBA has allowed players during warm-ups to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts and, on their own preference, to kneel during the national anthem.
A fan favorite to the new changes this season was when the league allowed players to choose, instead of their last names, to place a message or quote on the back of their jerseys.
An example that drew a lot of attention was Portland Trailblazers Guard Damian Lillard, who chose the phrase “How many more?” and his jersey number is #0 so it’s one of the few that fans jumped on.
Senior business administration and sports management major Ben Terwilliger agrees with how the different sports organizations are responding to current issues faced by the black community.
“The NBA, MLB, and NFL have taken great strides by shining light on the social justice issues in our nation,” said Terwilliger. “I’m so glad that athletes like LeBron, Collin Kaepernick, Damian Lillard, etc. are using their social media platform to express their feelings towards the issue and spreads awareness.”
While people may agree with Terwilliger, there are several others who echo Ingraham's 2018 statements.
For example, Twitter user - The New Americanist - commented on the Player Alliances video on June 17.
“Thanks for destroying the game by politically weaponizing it. We know it's been tough for you struggling with those multi-million dollar contracts. I hope your teams can still afford you when we fans stop buying tickets. Cuba has leagues,”
Additionally, one fan went as far as to denounce the MLB after the release of the video.
“No respect for MLB anymore. #GoodbyeMLB,” tweeted Anthony Hogan.
Junior sports management major Courtney Chisholm believes it is very important for athletes to speak out on how they feel because “athletes are seen as role models and luckily have the platform that most people don’t have to speak out.”
One thing is certain, now that three major sports organizations are on board, the media has no choice about spreading the message of racial equality to their millions of viewers on a consistent, daily basis.