November 24, 2017 by Joann Castle
I was never a sports fan, much to my recent husband’s dismay. Mike’s mother was a devoted fan and I think he expected it of me but I just couldn’t connect. When I watched football, I mostly saw male hormones battling it out for dominance over other males. But I understood his passion. Mike had been privileged to be the first black quarterback on his high school football team. He could see the mental game and the strategies of the plays as they unfolded.
That deep devotion to the game was over my head, until Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, to protest police brutality explaining: “… this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” With this, I connected.
Here was my moment that wedded sports to humanity, a moment when sportsmen revealed another side to the players in an action intended to challenge our definition of patriotism. I can’t say it better than Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Detroit Pistons, my home town team, in this week’s Time Magazine:
What is it that the protesters want?
SVG: “Simply and succinctly: Equality. Equal rights. Equal justice. Equal treatment by police and others in authority. Equal Opportunity. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” In over two centuries, from slavery to segregation to lynching and police brutality to the mass incarceration of people of color. We have not even come close to that ideal. It is our systemic racial inequality, not athletes kneeling during the national anthem that dishonors our country.
“If we truly want to honor our country, this must change.”
Yes, the time for kneeling is over and everyone needs to stand up and move from talk to action. What can we do? Van Gundy has a very specific list.
- Ameliorating harsh sentencing guidelines and ending mandatory minimum sentences.
- Enacting clean slate laws.
- Eliminating cash bail, holding people presumed to be innocent because they cannot afford to pay their bail.
- Reforming juvenile justice. Black kids are five times more likely to be locked-up than white kids. (2015 statistic)
- End police brutality and racial bias in police departments.”
Jeff Seidel, a Free Press reporter put it this way: If we love our democracy, “we need to stand up and do something until our flag wraps around each one of us, the same way.”
Stand up and speak for democracy. One of the major avenues we have for advancing Van Gundy’s proposed actions is to pay specific attention to down-ballot and judicial candidates. Do the research, discuss with your friends and cohorts, and then vote like your life depends on it.
Finding common ground puts us on the track to solutions. I learned there is more to sports than the battle on the field. Players and coaches understand teamwork and have something to say. Who ever thought I’d be a sports fan?
(Thanks Mitch Albom for bringing all this to my attention. Detroit Free Press 11/19/17)
I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.
Thanks for reading!