For those of you living outside of New York City during the Pandemic, you might not have seen the New York Post’s op-ed titled “New York is Dead Forever.” The article written by “American hedge-fund manager, author, podcaster and entrepreneur” James Altucher, received a lot of criticism, the loudest coming from Jerry Seinfeld.
The idea of Altucher’s op-ed can be summed up by saying, “I could go out at night to my favorite restaurants and then see my favorite performers perform. I could go to the park and play chess. I could take advantage of all this wonderful city has to offer. No more.”
As Jerry Seinfeld put it in his rebuttal, “We’re going to keep going with New York City if that’s all right with you. And it will sure as hell be back. Because of all the real, tough New Yorkers who, unlike you, loved it and understood it, stayed and rebuilt it.”
What does this have to do with sports? Good question.
As the world watches the US debate over whether or not Black lives matter (they do) and whether we should all acknowledge the systemic racism our country has been built upon (we must), professional athletes have been using their platform to take action.
- The NBA went on strike following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
- The WNBA did the same, putting out a solid and united message on social media.
- The MLB saw numerous game strikes as well.
- The NHL postponed playoff games.
- Naomi Osaka refused to play her semi-final match of the Western & Southern Open, halting the tennis tournament completely.
Across the board, we saw athletes using their voices by walking away from their games. It was powerful, it was potent and it was effective.
We also saw a lot of fans turning their backs on those same athletes, walking away from their favorite teams and sports.
And to those people, let me be the first to say this:
Our site over the last few years has written several pieces aimed at those who profess the words “Shut Up and Dribble.” Laura Ingraham, a FOX News pundit, told two prominent Black players in the NBA to “shut up and dribble.” The graphic underneath her read “JOCKS ON POLITICS”.
She then began referring to those athletes as jokes and stereotyping them as “dumb jocks.” Ingraham’s message was clear: these two Black men are dumb and should stick to their talents on the court.
Head to the comment section of any tweet about the MLB, NBA or WNBA game strikes, and you’ll see thousands of goatees in wrap-around sunglasses talking about how “sports need to stay out of politics” or “when I turn a ball game I want to watch a ball game, not social commentary.”
“You just lost a fan INSERT TEAM NAME HERE. It’s disgusting how you would INSERT ACTION TAKEN TO HELP BRING AWARENESS TO AND/OR FIGHT AGAINST SOCIAL INJUSTICE. I’m done.”
Go. There’s the door. You do not get to decide how the world caters to your opinion anymore. That’s not how any of this works, and I’d argue that half this country lives their life that way every day.
To strip the voices away from a group of people just because of how you view their job is destructive. Saying plumbers can only talk about pipes or Animal Control can only talk about rabid raccoons is asinine. No one thinks like that. Well, except the people who are currently free agents looking for a new sport devoid of humanity or politics.
But if you were more hurt by the Red Sox putting a Black Lives Matter billboard on I-90 than you were when Grady Little left Pedro in the 2003 ALCS, then I truly wonder how you made it this far in the first place.
Moving forward, these leagues are not going to be distancing themselves from the social, political, racial, and global arenas. If anything, they’re stepping into them firmly with both feet. The NBA and NBAPA recently released a statement planning out how they’re going to be making an impact in the world we currently live in.
This statement includes provisions regarding the league and it’s teams’ social responsibility. Outlined is the creation of a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches, and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform. Also included is a plan to convert NBA arenas into voting locations for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID.
And even further, the NBA has agreed to work with players and TV networks to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.
This statement is incredible and shows that taking action in the form of a strike sends a message and can prompt change. These changes are not going away anytime soon, and will more than likely be strengthened, heightened, and broader in the future.
That’s one of the four major leagues in the US, and you can expect the other three to follow suit. The MLB has seen game strikes, as has the NHL, and the NFL has already been trying to raise their voice since Kaep took a knee. This is the beginning of a widespread change in how professional sports exist in our country.
If that makes you uncomfortable, then once again, there’s the door.
You cannot support athletes on the condition that it’s “only when they’re wearing my team’s jersey.” You support the human AND the athlete in that uniform. That’s where we’re going from here on out.
Much like Altucher’s cries that he cannot play chess in the park anymore, you cannot cry about the loss of a superficial need, when people are fighting for their lives in the street and at the ballot box. It must be tough for Altucher to get a latte in the West Village, while New Yorkers on the outskirts struggle to keep the lights on.
The same goes for sports. You can’t be a fan of the Lakers and not support LeBron James’ right to walk-out on a season because the police keep shooting Black men and women without reproach. No justice, no peace.
If that makes you uncomfortable, or you cannot wrap your head around the idea that Black athletes are people too, then there’s the door.
Should the idea that Black athletes can do whatever they want with their platform, regardless of how much money they make, make you uncomfortable, then there’s the door.
These changes are just the beginning, and we’re incredibly late in observing them. Don’t think this fight is worth having? There’s the door.
So go. We’ve heard those threats before when the NFL took a knee, and you seem to have forgotten how to follow through on a promise. Seems like you hold onto your words a lot tighter than your actions. You do not need to announce your departure. No one will be sad to see you go.
In the vain of Jerry Seinfeld: We’re going to keep going with professional sports if that’s all right with you. Because of all the real, tough sports fans who, unlike you, loved it and understood it, stayed and rebuilt it for the better.
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