Many athletes, coaches and commentators within the world of sports feel that resuming competitions would be a distraction from the fight for racial equality, but that is far from the truth.
From Texas Longhorns wide receiver Brennon Eagles saying he will not play another snap amid the current racial issues to Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving saying he is willing to risk everything for social reform, it is clear that athletes’ priorities are beyond the sports that they know and love.
However, sports coming back will have more benefits than distractions. Los Angeles Lakers small forward, LeBron James, one of the more outspoken athletes on American social issues, is pushing for sports to return. As people within the NBA know, James’ message always holds water.
A return to sports will not be a distraction away from more important issues like Irving believes, but, rather, it would bring people together. NASCAR fans cheering for and backing Bubba Wallace after it was originally thought that a noose was planted in his garage is a prime example of the sports community coming together. It was later found that there was no noose planted, but the sentiment and support from the NASCAR community was heartwarming nonetheless.
There is nothing to say that players cannot still be outspoken and call for change once sports come back, when they will be given a much larger platform. From apparel to advertisements to speaking in front of a packed arena, players will have the opportunity to get their message out for the whole world to see, prompting fans to take action that would help make a real impact on the black community.
“We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived,” Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers said in an Instagram post. “I think we have too! But canceling or boycotting the return does not do that in my opinion. Guys want to play and provide and help change!”
The NBA has been very proactive in trying to refrain from the season resuming being a distraction, painting “Black Lives Matter” on the courts in Orlando, where the rest of the season will take place, according to ESPN. Additionally, players will be allowed to put a social statement on the back of their jersey where their last names are traditionally located.
“The biggest thing is to continue to move forward,” a Lakers representative told USA Today. “When we go to Orlando, the media outlets and playing on that stage, if you use it wisely the right way you can push forward and continue the movement even in a better forum.”
Unity within the sports community stretches even to high school athletics, where schools are showing their support for equality, such as a Texas football district putting a sticker symbolizing unity on the players’ helmets.
In addition to enabling athletes to continue to use their voice to advocate for social reform once their respective sport resumes, professional sports leagues are proving to the players that they will be active in not just social statements, but real action, such as the NFL contributing $250 million over the next 10 years to fight systemic racism.
It is admirable to see many athletes in all sports prioritise real-world issues over sports and their paychecks. However, they would be incorrect in the assumption that sports returning would cause any kind of distraction. Sports, especially professional sports, has shown time and time again that it can result in unity and can give a platform to the entire community.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.