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Athletes and Black Lives Matter

An opinion piece by Year 11 student Aman

You probably have been watching and reading about the protests in America and all over the world, about the violent arrest and murder of George Floyd, whereby a police officer knelt on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes leading to his death. Historically, blacks have been treated horrifically for years and have suffered numerous acts of police brutality. Police brutality, in essence is the use of excessive force by law enforcement personnel, beyond the amount required or justified.

These issues have been addressed continually by athletes. Four years ago, NFL player Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the national anthem before every game to oppose the treatment of blacks in America. He was publicly criticised for peacefully protesting his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Kaepernick received no support from the NFL body, and was actually released by the 49ers. He hasn’t played an NFL game since as teams were apprehensive of signing him due to the likelihood of friction and negative publicity. Last week, the NFL listed him as “retired” even though he hasn’t. Due to the riots caused by the murder of George Floyd, the world has now begun to acknowledge and understand Kaepernick for his actions. Another protest was demonstrated by the NBA teams who wore “I can’t breathe“t-shirts, over the chokehold death of Eric Garner in 2014.

Elite Athletes and sports brands are speaking out about racism and Black Lives Matter more than ever in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Naomi Osaka, Adidas, Nike, and Patagonia have all formally stood in solidarity against the Black Lives Matter discrimination and calling out for injustice and intolerance to end. Ironically, the same NFL organisation that did not support Kaepernick, announced on June 4th, 2020, that they “stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter.” Even more surprisingly, the very next day due to the sustained pressure by prominent NFL black players via a video and statements, the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, issued a formal video apology “admitting to not listening to the players earlier” and encouraged “all to speak out and peacefully protest”. However, the impact of the apology is yet to be seen as to whether they will take any significant actions to follow their apology.

Another paradox is that although blacks are treated unfairly the majority of the time, black collegiate athletes are revered in America, particularly in American Football, basketball, and baseball. These are all extremely high revenue-generating sports due to the increasing number of supporters, viewers and alumni donations towards NCAA collegiate titles. In other sports such as track and field and soccer which do not generate as much money in collegiate athletics, but are predominantly black, the athletes are also treated better by peers, teachers and friends.

Blacks need to be treated respectfully and equally in all facets of life and judgments should not be made on stereotypes. For example, the majority of people believe that black athletes who drive a fancy car or wear an expensive watch deserve it, because they have earned it through sporting achievements. However, if a regular black man is seen with the same fancy car and expensive watch, the clichéd presumption is that they are operating illegal activities such as drug-dealing or burglary. Such mentality is very wrong in this modern day and more importantly very dangerous and needs to stop. We can only do this through education.

Growing up in America as a young boy I never feared law enforcement despite seeing many horrific events of police brutality in the media. However, as I grow into my adulthood, I’m starting to feel apprehensive of how I may be perceived and I pay more attention to how I dress and conduct myself.