By Ken Reed
I truly think this time is different. I think as a society, we’re fed up with lingering racial injustice in this country.
It’s been heartening to see white leaders in government, corporate America, and the sports world step up in a strong way toward social justice in the days since George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis cop.
But this movement toward real “justice for all” is going to be a bumpy ride. A couple recent incidents make that very clear.
In Scottsdale, Arizona, home to the San Francisco Giants spring training headquarters and the complex where injured Giants and other players are currently training during baseball’s Covid-19 shutdown, Guy Phillips, a Scottsdale city council member, spoke to an anti-mask rally last week (in the state with the highest positive test rate for Covid-19). He stepped up to the microphone wearing a black mask, acted like he was struggling to breathe, and then uttered the last words of Floyd, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” He then pulled off the mask and rolled his eyes while saying, “Insanity” as the small crowd of Neanderthals cheered him on.
The outrage and pushback was swift, including from Arizona governor Doug Ducey.
“Just flat out wrong,” tweeted Ducey.
“Despicable doesn’t go far enough. The final words of George Floyd should NEVER be invoked like this. Anyone who mocks the murder of a fellow human has no place in public office.”
Giants president, Farhan Zaidi, was even angrier. “I think anyone would have difficulty getting beyond the abhorrent insensitivity of his statement,” Zaidi said.
“But even if you can get beyond that — the fact that this guy is condoning behavior that put our staff and players at risk? Like, seriously. Fuck that guy. I can’t believe that that guy is a public official in this country. It’s unbelievable.”
Unbelievable in some ways, but sadly, also very believable.
It’s certainly dispiriting to see these types of incidents.
Here’s another one. This one comes out of North Carolina, where racetrack owner Mike Fulp advertised “Bubba Ropes” for sale online days after NASCAR said what looked like a noose had been found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the top series’ only Black driver.
“Buy your Bubba Rope today for only $9.99 each, they come with a lifetime warranty and work great,” said the ad.
Ford Porter, a spokeswoman for North Carolina governor Roy Cooper, condemned Fulp’s ad.
“This incident of racism is horrific and shameful,″ Porter said, according to the Greensboro News & Record. “North Carolina is better than this.”
Culture change is a messy process. Bozos like Phillips and Fulp are doomed to be on the wrong side of history but we will need to deal with them in this fight for social justice.
On the brighter side, players for the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage, two franchises in the National Women’s Soccer league, knelt during the national anthem, as well as during a moment of silence, before their game on Saturday. They issued a statement as to why.
“We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard. It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone,” according to the statement.
“My grandfather served this country,” tweeted Taylor Nicole Smith, who plays for the OL Reign in the NWSL.
“He fought alongside so many brave men for freedom liberty and justice for all. Right now in our country there is a group of ppl not receiving these basic human rights. For those who still don’t understand. It’s not about the flag.”
Exactly. It’s about what the flag is supposed to stand for.
May the fight for “liberty and justice for all” continue apace.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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