“SPORTSMANSHIP, next to the Church, is the greatest teacher of morals.” Herbert Hoover
Let me start with a disclaimer, I AM A SPORTS FAN. I thoroughly enjoy watching sports, especially football, and basketball during their respective seasons. I even enjoy watching baseball during its run for the World Series. On Sundays, after church, I enjoy spending a lazy day watching sports. Which means I spend most weekends on my couch in sports heaven. Not this year though-no church service, no sports. So for this week’s blog post, I’d like to share my thoughts on the absurdity of resuming sports in the midst of a national and international pandemic. But first let me be clear, even though I’m a fan who enjoys a good down to the wire game, I am also a fan that enjoys and believes in GOOD SportsmanSHIP. But what is GOOD SportsmanSHIP? Let’s get at it…let’s talk SHIP about SportsmanSHIP!!
GOOD SportsmanSHIP, to me, encompasses many aspects of a person’s character, the most fundamental being respect. Thus, an organization, team, or league that promotes GOOD SportsmanSHIP SHOULD respect and require respect amongst the league, its players, its teammates, and its opponents. GOOD SportsmanSHIP treats its players/staff as equals. GOOD SportsmanSHIP is not only concerned with winning, but it is also concerned with the overall wellbeing of its players. GOOD SportsmanSHIP accepts, welcomes, and acknowledges differences in skin color, sexuality, and religious beliefs. When GOOD SportsmanSHIP is grounded in acceptance, its efforts flourish with harmony. GOOD SportsmanSHIP is about integrity. With that being said, resuming sports during a pandemic that has already killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, to me is NOT GOOD SportsmanSHIP.
Athletes, train and condition themselves for years to develop the skills necessary to perform and compete at the highest level possible within a particular sport. But regardless of how much training and conditioning, or agile abilities, an athlete may have, NO athlete is equipped or trained sufficiently to fight off the Coronavirus. This is especially true for African American athletes who already have a higher risk of contracting the Coronavirus and who also comprise the majority of athletes on most professional teams, other than baseball, soccer, and hockey. To add to the already prevalent risks for African American athletes, one league has decided to reopen its season in a state where the number of Covaid-19 cases continues to rapidly grow making these athletes doubly vulnerable. So for African American athletes, resuming athletics in the midst of a pandemic is dangerous and it’s NOT GOOD SportsmanSHIP.
With the leagues knowing that African American players are already highly susceptible to contracting the virus, it’s beyond absurd to have those same players ignore the rules that medical professionals suggest we follow to avoid contracting this deadly virus- maintaining 6 feet distance, no contact, wearing masks, etc. Can these preventive precautions even be enforced while playing? Why risk it? Athletes are NOT essential workers. So why would we, knowingly and intentionally put the WORLD’S greatest athlete’s at-risk for contracting the virus by resuming games for the sake of entertainment? It may be profitable for the league but it’s deadly for African American players and that’s obviously NOT GOOD SportsmanSHIP.
What’s even crazier to me, is to resume playing WHILE social protests that are aimed at stopping injustices against and demanding equality for African-Americans are occurring throughout the nation. During this pandemic, in those same cities that the leagues represent, people of different hues and walks of life-have risked their lives to protest and express their disdain and disgust for the lack of value placed on Black lives. All over the world, people united to protest the audacity of a white police officer’s smug look as he kept his knee on the neck of an unarmed Black man until he took his last breath and for the countless other African Americans unjustly murdered in this country. Yet, African American athletes are being asked to risk their health and that of their families, and teammates to play a game and are expected to be silent spectators to the social injustices that also affect their families in those same cities they represent. I’m with Kap, that’s certainly NOT GOOD SportsmanSHIP!!!
As horrific as this pandemic is, it is also a crucial time for African Americans in this country. It’s a time to work together to dismantle systemic racism by boycotting industries, including sports until African Americans are afforded the same civil liberties shared and freely enjoyed by others. Rosa Park’s 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery lasted 381 days and spawned the birth of Civil Rights. Because a Black woman, tired from cleaning white folks’ houses decided to sit in the first seat available and refused to get up started a movement that changed LIFE for African Americans everywhere. Her exhaustion and non-compliance led to a year-long boycott that financially crippled the Montgomery Bus system because it affected and threatened white folks’ financial sense of comfortability.
Like Rosa Parks, we should be tired too. Tired of hearing “I can’t breathe” or “Stop, don’t shoot.” Tired of being fearful of dying when we –go out for a jog, play video games with our nephew at home, cuddle at home with our boo, drive home from dinner with our mate, sell cigarettes and CD’s in front of a store, or when we go to the store for Skittles and a damn ice tea. We should be tired of having to say their names. We should be tired of seeing African American mothers and fathers grieve the loss of their sons and daughters. We should be tired of having to explain why Black Lives Matters and as African American athletes, you should be tired too!!
No matter what sport or team you play for or with, systemic racism in America is currently under construction and I’m hoping that this season, instead of chasing an asterisk * title or championship ring, athletes would grab a hammer and work together to dismantle and rebuild a country that exudes GOOD SportsmanSHIP by affording everyone EQUAL opportunities. I’m hoping that ALL players put their health first and throw their influence on some aspect of the social injustice struggle- police brutality and reform, housing injustices, discrimination in pay, voter suppression in predominately Black neighborhoods, etc.-it would make a world of difference.
Like most folks, I miss sports too. I, too, want to get back to my lazy Sundays. I want to talk shyt to my friends when the Clippers beat the Lakers and when the Raiders lose, but not this season and I can wait. I can wait until the NFL apologizes to and acknowledges that Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling wasn’t about the flag. I can wait until it is understood, that singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” once at every team’s game opener is an insult since African American players are Black ALL season. I can wait until the leagues player’s FORCE team owners that openly and proudly support Trump’s “white supremacy” rhetoric to throw their influence, money, and support toward addressing voter suppression in Black and Brown communities by ensuring voting polls are open and operational, by providing transportation to and from the polls, and by providing lunch to make their lengthy wait tasty and great. I can wait!!! The only game that can be played without African American athletes is checkers, so I say let’s play chess. Once African American athletes get tired, like Rosa Parks, they’ll realize they too have the power and ability to appeal to their (team owners) financial sense of comfortability. TRUST me, I can and I will wait!!
By now, I’m sure you’ve discovered that I am NOT a well-paid sports expert or analyst. Hell, I’m not even athletic. I’m just an opinionated sports fan that stopped by to reiterate two thing-first, that 2020 started off early proving WHO it was. It reminded the world, especially the Sports world, that LIFE is not promised to any of us. AND secondly, to remind you that the death of millions of people has already proven that the Coronavirus is NOT a game and that it’s NOT handing out medals, titles, or championship rings, it’s handing our death certificates.
So as an African American fan concerned about OUR health, I’m encouraging African American athletes NOT to risk their health playing until this Coronavirus is gone. Instead, I’m asking you to promote changes within the world and the sports industry that will provide economic opportunities throughout the world and within the leagues. Fight for more equality and opportunities for African American owners, coaches, vendors, managers, etc. Now that’s GOOD SportsmanSHIP!!!
SHIP TALK: Do you think players should risk their health to play during this pandemic?
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