Let’s be clear on this — the protests happening across the country are nothing new. They’ve been happening for decades. And with each act of injustice, there is a role that people with influence must assume.
Athletes haven’t been excluded from using their platform responsibly. In fact, their actions and opinions carry the most weight.
The phrase “stick to sports” has devolved into sports culture cliché because athletes have refused to stay silent when social issues arise.
But here we are in 2020 and athletes and sports organizations fail to use their platforms wisely.
There isn’t an opinion to have on the death of George Floyd — an unarmed man who was unjustly killed and it was caught on camera. But reactions to Floyd’s death have taken different routes. Whether they’re displays of outrage or calls for unity, they need to be done in a responsible way.
Responses that include the betterment of the community or foster inclusion in some way are responsible. NBA players Jaylen Brown and Lonnie Walker IV took action with their opinions — Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to lead a peaceful protest and Walker helped remove graffiti in downtown San Antonio. No matter what response athletes make, it should be done with purpose.
“Remember why we’re here!” Protest turns into March lead by @FCHWPO who drove 15 hours from Boston just to be here for a peaceful protest in his hometown #11Alive #bostonceltics pic.twitter.com/uhow5F2Lon
— Hope Ford (@hope_iam) May 30, 2020
Spurs' @lonniewalker_4 helped remove graffiti from buildings and handed out waters to those cleaning up San Antonio after the protests 🖤🤍
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 31, 2020
Whether you believe in these athletes’ causes or not, their efforts benefit someone other than themselves.
Then there are those like Sky Blue FC and U.S. women’s national team striker Carli Lloyd who missed the point entirely. After posting a #SayNoToRacism message and a stock image of hands in a circle on Twitter, Lloyd was hit with backlash.
As a response, Lloyd went on the defensive. It’s understandable to feel the heat of the kitchen when there is pressure to respond, but with the stage she’s on, it needs to be done right.
In this case, it most definitely was not done right.
Sky Blue FC’s response to the events that have transpired since Floyd’s death is vastly different from Lloyd’s opinion, which further complicates things.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) May 31, 2020
This doesn’t mean Lloyd’s opinions aren’t valid. Somewhere buried in her initial reaction, there is some sort of rationality, but by going on the defensive and making her stance personal, she’s dug herself a very deep hole.
Poor decisions don’t just stop at athletes, though.
The NFL tweeted a statement Saturday from commissioner Roger Goodell. In the statement, Goodell expressed sadness and his deepest condolences to the Floyd family on behalf of the NFL. It’s a nice touch, and with any other organization, it’s a statement that’s needed.
But people remember how the NFL handled Colin Kaepernick’s actions in 2016. Both Floyd’s death and Kaepernick’s protests are cut from the same cloth — unjust actions toward black Americans.
Kaepernick originally knelt during the national anthem to protest the unjust killing of Mario Woods in 2015. It then turned into a protest for the unjust killings of black Americans, but in 2018, the NFL decided to fine players who didn’t want to stand for the anthem.
Kaepernick was responding to an unjust death of a black American. Given events in the past, the NFL’s response to the death of a black American seems insincere.
The brazenness of this is unbelievable. The NFL owners blacklisted Colin Kaepernick and punished players who kneeled to protest police brutality. So the NFL is not exactly credible when they make a statement like this after a cop kneeled on a black man’s neck to murder him. https://t.co/Wk3l6IFX9j
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) May 31, 2020
Similar to the case with Lloyd, making a statement felt necessary.
And it’s true, it’s definitely important for athletes and organizations to react to situations like the death of Floyd, especially with the stage athletes and sports organizations are on.
But if it’s not going to be a genuine response, it does more harm than good.