NBA sit out illuminates societal blind spots

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The NBA sit out showed the sports world that there is still progress to be made. Photo / marketwatch.com

Michael Pearce, Editor-in-Chief

After the players of the National Basketball Association (NBA) sat out multiple games this past week, many took to social media with the same old refrain, “stick to sports.”

“Stick to sports” is a tired phrase that intends to demean athletes, putting them down and denying their humanity. Athletes do not exist for the public’s entertainment, and people who cry for politics and sports fail to recognize the history of sports.

One of the most iconic photos of all time is Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics. That gesture spurned conversation across the globe, effectively doing what Carlos and Smith intended to do.

Bill Russell, an NBA legend and 11-time champion, led a boycott in 1961 for the Civil Rights Movement. Russell and his teammates sat out of a game in Lexington, KY after being denied service at a restaurant.

Now, Russell is one of the most influential players in NBA history. Later in his career, he was the first ever Black head coach in North American professional sports and the first to win a championship.

Back in the ‘60s, there was incredible resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, just like there is resistance to Black Lives Matter and police reform right now. Today, Bill Russell and every NBA player who boycotted is looked upon favorably. Soon, the players who led the protest regarding the Jacob Blake shooting will be looked upon favorably in history as well.

Sports have always been intertwined with politics. Athletes are humans — bottom line. Being a professional athlete is just a job, like any job that these critical citizens have. The main problem is that these athletes are speaking out against issues that these “concerned citizens” just don’t agree with, so they try to silence them.

Laura Ingraham, who is a poor excuse for the word “journalist,” once famously told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble.” When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he would never kneel for the flag, she commended him for using his platform.

Obvious racism aside, Ingraham is an example of a massive problem in The United States. The blindness to obvious systemic racism breeds a gross ignorance, which compels these people to diminish and put down athletes for attempting to use a platform, just because they willingly ignore the issue that affects them.

After the Blake shooting, it should become impossible to ignore the problem with the police force. It realistically should have been obvious to anyone with an open mind before this, but the stark contrast of Blake and the 17-year-old who walked freely with an assault rifle illuminates the issue like a streetlight in an dark neighborhood.

What is impossible to deny is that the election of Donald Trump proved that anyone who cast a vote for him was willing to ignore his blatant racism in favor of personal gain. That ignoring of an unforgivable world view has led to an even larger divide in this country, one fueled by the selfish desire of financial gain and party affiliation.

Not all Trump supporters and those who believe that athletes should “stick to sports” are racist. But, those people have decided that systemic racism that starts from the top down isn’t a big enough deal to them to act and vote selflessly.

What the NBA players sitting out of games showed the sports world is that there’s a long way to go before real change will be made. Many believe that athletes are only for their entertainment — and not dynamic, fully formed people with families and personal convictions.