Sports and Protests…

I’ve never been much for taking a stand. You know that story, “and when they came for me, there was no one left…” I’ve always thought that would be me. I’m not proud of it … but I know myself. These days, though, “Silence is Violence,” so here’s what I’d like to see in terms of sports protests.

First of all, despite all the plans now in place, I’m not convinced that any sports will (or should) start up right now. And if they do, it’s one thing for the Canadian government to say we’ll allow NHL players into Toronto (or Edmonton or Vancouver) because at least they’ll be sort of self-isolating. But, despite writing and commenting mostly about hockey, I’m a baseball fan above all else. A Blue Jays fan above all else. Still, I sure as hell hope the Canadian government won’t let the Blue Jays play at home, coming and going from the United States every three days to a week, and bringing in players from visiting American teams equally as often. That seems like madness to me. If Dunedin is unsafe (and I sure wouldn’t want to be in Florida right now), let the Blue Jays play out of Buffalo.

IF sports do resume, I hope that athletes will continue to protest. But if they do, here’s what I’d like to see. Please do not protest during the National Anthem. Not that I disagree with doing that, but by removing the National Anthem from the protests, you’d remove all the wrong-headed “they’re disrespecting the flag” nonsense. Don’t give them the chance.

Instead, when the referee or umpire brings the teams together for the opening kick-off, face-off, tip-off, or pitch, please take a knee then. On opening day, in each sport, perhaps take a knee for the 8-and-a-half minutes it took to murder George Floyd. The rest of the time, maybe a symbolic 30-seconds will do.

Stadiums will mostly be empty, but, if not, I bet there’d be a fair share of people booing and expressing “shut up and play” sentiments. Even if many people wouldn’t feel emboldened to speak out these days, I suspect plenty still feel that way. Even without the ability to say it, I’m sure there are too many who would like to see Black people kept in their place. I hope I’m wrong.

You may disagree with me if you’d like. Maybe my thoughts are naive. I won’t respond to comments on this story regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. If you agree with my thoughts on protesting, feel free to share this post. I’m not on Twitter, but if you are, and you agree, I’d be happy to have you Tweet this. But that’s up to you.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking…

14 thoughts on “Sports and Protests…

  1. for English soccer games they do a moment of silence for Covid victims who were fans, then the players take a knee – course in English soccer matches they don’t play the national anthem so it removes that as a possible issue – and the players had Black Lives Matter on the back of their shirts rather than their names – not a bad solution

  2. Those who object to athletes protesting really don’t like the idea of protesting at all. The USA was founded on people protesting the Crown and nobility. Protest only exists when people perseve a “wrong”. The proper thing for leaders to do is Listen and dialogue. That is often difficult. Your sensibility may be hurt. The solutions? Don’t be a leader. Leaders have a responsibility, or are they only out for self agrandizement? Do they enter a rally applauding themselves and claiming to be the greatest in everything?
    There is racism. Nor just against Blacks. East Asians from the Indian subcontinent (remember the Paki “jokes”), Asians (calling the virus KungFlu) blamed for Covid 19. An our Indigenous peoples and similar groups all across the globe! And for over 2,000 years, and counting, antisemitism. And being in a minority doesn’t mean you can’t be a racist too. There are those in all groups who hate “the Other” even when there are few representatives of that group in your midst.
    Women are not a majority. Even the most sexist male has had a subordinate role and a need for at least one female. Mom. And yet women are treated as second class in many societies and faith groups. And economically here at home.
    There is lots to speak out against. And sometimes people see racism when it doesn’t exist in that particular instance. Why? Because it does exist in so many other instances.
    And as for the national anthems, they only were inserted into sport, and were once part of the movie experience, at wartime. Or if a member of the Royal Family was in attendance. Not sure if God Save the Queen will be played at LA sports events if Harry gets a comp. ticket!
    We are all one species with the same DNA so hating is foolish and a strain on the heart and nervous system. If you MUST hate then hate philosophies and ideas that claim you are superior to everyone else and others are subhuman.
    An excellent article. And keep those borders closed until Americans listen to medical experts and not “hunches”

  3. Hey Eric

    Much to be gained by eliminating the national anthems altogether. Anyone know when it became a thing in North American sports?


  4. An excellent article, Eric. I agree completely with your wise words. It is many years since I protested, and for nothing as important as Black Lives Matter.

    It is too bad that some sports fans seem to be so prejudiced and feel the need to yell their prejudices aloud.

    And, I do hope that the border remains closed to all of our American cousins and friends until such time as they get their very own Covid pandemic under control. We in BC watch Washington State with alarm as cases spike there.

  5. For this story, I feel like its appropriate to have all comments in one place, so — even though we essentially agree — I’m taking this exchange between Aubrey Ferguson and me on Facebook and pasting it in here:

    Lots to agree on…
    1. No sports playing in front of live audience…it sends the wrong message that we can relax and get back to normal;
    2. No border crossing; keep the Jays in the USA; Buffalo, as a senior Toronto Blue Jays minor league affiliate makes sense given that Florida is ‘sinking’ in the CoVid19 recovery standings.
    3. Keep protesting.
    But that’s where we diverge…one can’t tell protesters how to peacefully protest. Taking a knee during the anthem is very Gandhi-like and effective in stimulating discourse. The whole purpose of protesting is to be disruptive and create attention to an issue. Curating it into what feels more comfortable isn’t going to accomplish the goal.

    I said I wasn’t going to reply. And I won’t really … except to say that my thought isn’t to water down the protest or make it more palatable; it’s to take away one of the main objections that has been used to misconstrue its purpose. But, as you say, using the Anthem certainly created attention.

  6. Well, Eric, you are so right with what you are saying. I feel that most of the world is closed to things as the sports world should be also. Now for the sports world, it is just BECAUSE of the money and I think it is to be all shut down for the well being of all people. As you know, I love my Hockey, but not if it is going to harm people it is not worth it at all.

  7. This from Andrew Knoll, who writes about hockey for the New York Times:

    My response would be that the anthem was and remains the best place for protest during a sporting event, although without fans in the arena one of those advantages is no longer present. The coin toss, the exchange of lineups, the introduction of the starting five, a ceremonial puck drop and anything else that happens at the start of a game may or may not be on television depending on the broadcast. The anthem is televised pretty much without fail. When fans were in the stadium, they were silent, standing and paying attention during the anthem, whereas they and their minds could be anywhere during these other moments. Lastly, I think we are in a moment in history, not unlike we had at the peak and right after the peak of the civil rights movement, where we should not be paying attention to “taking away” criticisms. The people who didn’t like the demonstrations all over the world after what happened in Minneapolis condemned the protests as violent. They also condemned the non-violent protests of Kaepernick and others prior to that though. These are the rationalizations and rationales of racists and reactionaries. They should not guide our behavior, thought or self-expression. To the person whose view is clouded by bias, there will never be a perfect protest that lands, so I would not even consider them as an audience worth considering for a protest. Just my view, of course, and I appreciate you asking for it as well as sharing your post with me.

  8. Well done, Eric. Essentially I agree with you, for the most part.
    While I also don’t like that anthems are played at sporting events, their inclusion does present a perfect focal point for spontaneous, poignant, public statements for or against certain topical issues. I can appreciate your alternative suggestions for sans anthem scenarios but for me, the desired impact effect which spontaneity brings would be lost and such gestures as you have suggested might be viewed as somewhat contrived and become ho-hum and perhaps even patronizing.
    Perhaps seemingly spontaneous yet secretly prearranged (among certain participating players) group stances, somewhat as you have suggested, immediately prior to 1st pitch, puck-drop, tip-off, etc., might work if effected as a brief but perceived hold-up to the game and probably wouldn’t be viewed as interfering with the game itself as long as it hadn’t formally started.

    This was a great, thought-provoking piece, Eric. You should set yourself to more “Opinion” articles.


  9. Adding another comment received via email:

    I disagree. It would remove as well the very point of the protest, namely that the playing without comment of the National Anthem before a sporting event, as mandated by the link between ‘sports’ and ‘patriotism’ fashioned for profit by the right-sided owners of the teams of the leagues, reaffirms the status quo covering up the inequalities faced by the black players who in larger part make the games profitable for the owners – as Trump and the right-sided know only too well.

    Evan Wm. Cameron

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