It’s been a fortnight of reckoning with a longstanding history of white supremacy for the US, and the world of sports was no exception.
As per usual, the WNBA led the pack when it came to affirming that Black Lives Matter and calling for an end to police brutality. Natasha Cloud’s powerful piece “Your Silence Is A Knee On My Neck” should be mandatory reading for fans of any sport this week.
NBA legend Michael Jordan also issued a fiery message through his Jordan Brand, which announced that it was committing to donate $100 million to racial equality and social justice organizations over the next 10 years. Do you know how bad things have to be for Michael Jordan to speak up? Really bad!
But aside from the many Black athletes who supported or marched alongside protesters calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the thousands of other victims of police brutality and systemic racism, a number of non-Black athletes used their platforms to speak out too. Here’s a rundown of sports figures that effectively stood with Black Lives Matter, and the ones that we’ll be actively rooting against in the upcoming season:
1. Megan Rapinoe, USWNT
We love Megan, who’s also kneeled in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protests before and has cited him as one of her inspirations. So are we surprised that she’s come out swinging for defunding the police and using her company‘s platform to promote Black creatives? Not in the slightest.
2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
"It's important that we, as white people … we have to do it. Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years."
—Gregg Popovich on creating change
— ESPN (@espn) June 6, 2020
If there’s any straight white man that we can actually trust, it might be Gregg Popovich. Pop actively derided his fellow white people this week for failing to step up and dismantle white supremacy prior to this moment, reminding us that “Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years,” before going on to call out that “The history of our nation from the very beginning in many ways was a lie.” Buckets on buckets from Pop, truly.
3. Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
As a white person, racism isn’t something I’ll ever experience. We have a responsibility to listen to black people, to get educated, and use our white privilege to amplify the black community’s calls for justice. Here is a thread of resources we can use to become better allies
— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 4, 2020
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I might have to be after this week. Doolittle’s been spending the last week calling out performative celebrity actions and encouraging people to buy anti-racism educational materials from Black-owned bookstores. His statements condemning the military police for using violence against protestors are particularly relevant as a player for DC, where police violence has been particularly brutal (let’s not even get started on the issue of electoral representation).
4. Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing Olympic Champion
— Mikaela Shiffrin (@MikaelaShiffrin) June 7, 2020
Shiffrin has had a rough year, with her father’s passing just before the pandemic. But personal tragedy hasn’t stopped her from firmly supporting #BlackLivesMatter, or self-correcting when called in. (Shiffrin’s initial statement, later clarified, hoped for a future world of racial colorblindness). A reminder to all of us that being an ally is about constant self-education, and bearing in mind that white supremacy is a problem that requires work from all of us.
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees proved this week that he’s a tool, and not even a useful one – basically, the human version of having a flat screwdriver when you need a Phillips. Brees initially called for racial equality while doubling down on his previous statements about how kneeling in protest during the National Anthem is disrespecting the flag. The backlash to this ice cold take was so strong, he had to issue not just one, but two apologies.
2. Jake Fromm, Buffalo Bills
You know the trope of the hyper-privileged frat boy who never grows up until he’s finally in a situation his dad can’t get him out of? That’s Jake Fromm. The Bills rookie was exposed by a former classmate for saying guns should only be available for “elite white people,” which succeeded in angering both the predominantly white gun rights crowd and people of color. An exceptional feat in unity – but one would hope it’s for abolishing the police, not abolishing your career.
3. The San Francisco 49ers
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) June 2, 2020
The San Francisco 49ers – 30 years from now if you Google “useless performative allyship in the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings,” you’ll see the meek black box that the Niners tweeted on Blackout Tuesday. That’s right – the same Niners who cut Colin Kaepernick after he first began protesting. The same Niners that proceeded to help blacklist him from the entire league. On that note…
4. The NFL
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responds: pic.twitter.com/laCjr4m4wH
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 5, 2020
NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell finally apologized for not listening to protesting players. And yet, he managed to make his whole milquetoast statement without ever saying the name that started it all. With leadership this subpar, maybe not news that most of the sports figures that got it wrong this week were from the NFL? Get Kaepernick on a roster. It’s beyond time. Until then, throw the whole thing away.
No matter your sport of choice, Black Lives Matter, full stop. It’s time an industry that profits so profoundly from Black talent holds itself accountable and recognizes just that.