What the athletes are boycotting and kneeling for is based on lies and it is damaging for America
For sports fans, the last few months have been hard. All the great traditions of sports have been wrong, whether it was no Masters and no Wimbledon, shortened baseball season or a stuttered NHL and NBA season. With Corona Virus and a bitter election ahead, sports fans want the diversion of sports. But they aren’t getting it.
Another viral shooting has made headlines. This time many in the sports community have drawn a line and refused to play. The NBA playoffs were postponed and tennis matches withdrawn over the incident, even the usually neutral NHL took off a game in protest.
The athletes are demanding action. But what is the action they want of their fans and the country? Mainly they talk in platitudes. Justice. Equality. There isn’t a lot of expanding on what they think equality ought to be and how more equality can be achieved.
For example, Naomi Osaka the Japanese tennis star with two Majors withdrew from the semi-final of a US Open warm-up tournament and here were her reasons.
She wants to start the “conversation” about the “Continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police”. I don’t know what kind of conversation she is looking for, but maybe she can explain her reason for thinking genocide is happening among black people at the hands of the police. This is a blatantly false statement with absolutely no basis in statistics or reality.
Naomi Osaka, who is free to express any opinion as we all, no matter how false they are. But this “conversation” she wants isn’t about truth or about what is happening. It is based on a false narrative that makes it impossible for “change” to happen.
The most eloquent of those talking about their demands and expressing the views of the athletes is Doc Rivers. Rivers is the head coach of the LA Clippers and the son of a police office. After a playoff game, he was asked about Jacob Blake and here is what he said:
Here are the main issues with what Rivers said and, in extension, the athletes who are demanding change and why it is an impossibly unfair and unattainable goal and will only continue to hurt America.
This is a Completely Partisan Issue
Doc Rivers makes a a very partisan political point of view. Rivers is wearing a mask that says “Vote” (though he takes it off for his discussion of Blake and the state of America). He begins with a partisan attack of the Republican’s who were simultaneously broadcasting their national convention against NBA playoffs. Rivers rips into the Republicans, naming them specifically multiple times and mentioning President Trump once. He says they are “spewing fear” and condemns them by saying “how dare they talk of fear”.
These statements highlight that Rivers and the athletes aren’t about real change but political change. After George Floyd’s death, a black U.S. Senator created a bill to help curb, nationally, police brutality. He talked openly of the racism and discrimination he had personally experienced with police officers as well as the Floyd marches as the reasons behind the Bill.
That Senator, was Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina who spoke at the RNC. He spoke of the bill he tried to pass and how the Democrats refused to even allow it to vote. They stonewalled his bill that would attempt, on a national level to enact police reform and change to help black and white Americans. Scott spoke as passionately as Doc Rivers did on his desire to pass the Justice Act on the Senate Floor. The Democrats refused to govern.
Doc Rivers didn’t slam the Democrats for not enacting change even as a bill by a victim of the “fear” he talks about tried to. He slammed the Republicans. So his message and by in large the message of athletes about BLM is partisan. They are not demanding change of Kenosha mayor, who is a Democrat or the governor of Wisconsin who is also a Democrat. Nor do they stand with Rand Paul (a Republican) who wrote the Breonna Taylor Act in the name of Breonna Taylor that would end no-knock warrants.
It’s hard to not be cynical when it is an election year, with a man wearing a “Vote” mask who is attacking a specific party which is the only party that, on the national level, has tried to make change.
Even further, the NBA players demanded election support going into November. NBA players refused to continue to play until the owners helped them. League stars like Chris Paul and LeBron James sought the advice of Former President Barack Obama on what they should demand with the NBA. In the end, the arenas will be turned into polling stations for November’s election. An election LeBron James has been very vocal about who he will not be voting for.
Much of the protesting and stoppage of games is about sports players and coaches trying to influence a national election. Not that these athletes are well versed in the issues or are demanded to make a regular defense of their political opinions like most partisan participants. When Doc Rivers made his statement, there wasn’t a single follow up by reporters asking about this or any of the questions I am doing now.
If this was really about change, they would have rallied to Tim Scott’s side when he tried or be supporting Rand Paul. They would have ridiculed the Democrats for refusing to legislate. But that is not what the athletes did. They don’t want actual change, they want to influence an election.
He Makes Claims that are False and Conspiratorial in Nature
“We are the one’s getting killed. We are the one’s getting shot.” Doc Rivers said.
This sentiment was echoed by Michael Wilbon on PTI after River’s interview. He said, “The first goal is to stop killing people!”
I am going to make the assumption they are both talking of “we” and “people” as black Americans. Their comments belie a conspiracy that black men (and women) are being hunted down and killed for no reason. This same opinion was expressed earlier by Naomi Osaka. It is more starkly said by LeBron James when in an interview he said sometimes cops wake up with the expectation of killing a black person. There is zero evidence that black men are being pulled over by the cops and shot as both Rivers, Wilbon, Osaka and James perpetuate.
Rivers explicitly propagates this narrative when he talks about how black fathers have to have different conversations than white fathers about what to do when a police officers pulls them over. “We need to be afraid,” he says of being pulled over by the police.
This is a conspiracy theory with no backing. There is evidence to say that black men are pulled over more than any other racial group (with men being pulled over more than women regardless of race). There is even evidence that black and Hispanic men are more likely to have their car searched after a routine traffic stop (the same research also states that these same groups have more contraband than their white counterparts when searched).
What there is absolutely no evidence of is black men being pulled over and shot indiscriminately, there is no evidence of genocide and there is no evidence that police officers wake up hoping to shoot black people. This is a conspiracy theory that has taken on a deadly following and is here repeated and left unchecked by a room full of journalist and even promulgated on ESPN the following day and spread through the voices of one sports top stars.
As a white woman, in my drivers education class as a 15 year old there was a whole day talking about what to do when one was pulled over. The teacher of the class was a former police officer. He went into detail with terrifying stories of a routine traffic stop that ended up with the death of a police officer. I was taught to keep my hands in view at all times, to never lean toward the glove box or towards the floor. If I did need to reach for something, the drivers ed teacher stressed to inform the police officer of what you were doing. My drivers ed teachers had been teaching for a decade before me and after me. The insinuation that this is a lesson that must be taught to only black drivers is a lie.
Even if we look at the Jacob Blake case specifically, as the truth continues to be revealed, the shooting becomes more and more justified. But finding the truth in these shootings has become less and less important. Rivers is either not aware of the truth or blatantly lying to push a political agenda. As he seems genuine and earnest throughout the interview so I will assume it is simply that he is unaware.
Evidence of his misinformation is shown when he says what black people want from police officers.
“(We are) trying to get them to protect us, like they do everybody else.”
The police were called to where Jacob Blake was by a fellow member of the black community. The complaint given to the police dispatcher was that Blake “isn’t supposed to be there and he took the complainant’s keys and is refusing to give them back.”
What Rivers is demanding is exactly what happened. A member of the black community sent a cry for help and the police answered. A woman called the police for help when a man, who had an arrest warrant filed in July for criminal trespassing, third-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct, was somewhere he “Isn’t supposed to be” and taking their keys. According to court documents, Blake broke into this woman’s house and assaulted her while she was asleep. The police arrived within 2 minutes of the call and were in the process of trying to protect her when the incident occur. They even attempted to tase Blake and not use deadly force, but it was unsuccessful. Even after he was shot, the same police officers called in medical help and provided life-saving services on him.
The event Rivers and the NBA and most athletes are boycotting, fulfills the demands they want. Unless you only look at one video and don’t care anymore about the truth than what you can glean from it. The police were protecting the black community. Unfortunately, the most crimes committed against the black community is by fellow members of the black community. In order for police to do as Rivers demands, “protect us as you protect everyone else,” it must include law enforcement to clash against other members of the black community.
Thus, their demand they ask for is also nullified by their protest. A paradox it is impossible for Americans to fix no matter how many walk-outs they stage.
Completely Ignores the Violence Happening
Doc Rivers slams, repeatedly, the Republicans for talking of fear. He then says that others (I assume he means white people) have no reason to fear but that “we need to be afraid”. This is deeply immoral or blind view of the country right now. To say that no one but black people need to fear can only be said by a person who hasn’t looked at the violence that has swept through this country.
Whole cities are burning, business are being looted and children are being killed in the name of the shirts being worn by NBA players. To not even acknowledge that fear let alone not condemn it is disgusting. Just this week, a white person was killed because of their beliefs by those who claim to be BLM supporters and his death was celebrated.
Rivers fear is no more important than those who’s lives and safety are at risk because they live in areas now taken over by rioters.
There is a lot of talk of having conversation, but from Rivers he wants to lecture and silence fears of any that don’t have his fears. Rivers, Osaka and James fear are of more value than others fear. Why is this the case, that is unclear. But it is deeply damaging to the country.
His Words Border on Anti-American
“Why we keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back.”
The first critique of Colin Kaepernick when he kneeled for the national anthem was that it was anti-American. Here Rivers openly questions his love for his country.
But lets take the second part of this explosive statement. “This country doesn’t love us back”, with the assumption of “us” being black Americans. How would one decide whether a country loves or doesn’t love a set of people.
Economically, black Americans are the wealthiest blacks in the world. Black Africans range from $781 in Liberia to over $1500 in Zambia. Whereas, Black Americans have seen an steady income increase since 2014 to over $41,000. Blacks make a huge impact on the economy not only in their income but in their purchasing power.
Politically, black Americans are present in every hall of power though they only make up 13 percent of the population. Of course, 12 years ago Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the United States. Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court. They are in the Senate on both sides of the political aisle as well as having their own caucus in the House.
Culturally, black Americans lead in sports with stars like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Tiger Woods who are the top paid American athletes. Beyonce is the biggest name in music. All of these black cultural icons make their money and gain their fame from the predominantly white America. Black icons ranks as some of the most followed on Twitter. The most beloved movie stars are black.
Historically, Rivers has a case. Though he says this, it is entirely in a false context. He says, “We’ve been denied the ability to live in certain communities, we’ve been hung and we’ve been shot.” Historically there have been a lot of injustices made toward black Americans. Slavery and Jim Crow were a thing and were evil. But to pretend America is the same America of 1860 and 1960 is to live with ones eyes closed. To pretend like Lebron James faces the same racial discrimination as Bill Russell is blatantly false. To hold up Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old boy who was lynched for offending a white women with Jacob Blake, a man with an arrest warrant out and had the cops called on him for trespassing, is an insult to the black Americans who have fought for equality for 200 years. Rivers talks as if the country hasn’t moved anywhere in 100 years when it comes to race relations.
Rivers statements about his love for his country will further alienate Americans. It is false by every standard to say that black Americans are a loved part of American life. It is false to say that black Americans haven’t succeeded with the American structure. If Rivers love for his country is contingent on false narratives or who sits in the president, then our country will continue to fragment.
Sports isn’t going to get back to normal anytime soon. Each demand the players make, the owners and commissioners acquiesce. There is very little need for the athletes to be accurate or right in their demands or their assumptions. There aren’t even journalists anymore who will ask hard questions.
Unless Joe Biden is elected, we can continue to expect this. If this sounds like extortion, you’re not alone. The election is the only demand that has any basis in being able to be fulfilled. Because the rest of the demands are based on faulty assumptions and unless they can convince an entire country of the fallacy, they will continue to be upset. Violence and anger will continue to fester in our nation. Perhaps viewership will flee and the sporting world will have a humbling. Either way, it’s not enough to save sports in 2020.
This is not an opinion of sports. It is an opinion of politics. Does not belong here or, at least, present a counterpoint.
This is an opinion of sports take on politics. This is why I started this blog to be the counterpoint to ESPN political messaging. I include all of the counterpoints and direct quotes within the tags of the post from Michael Wilbon’s perspective to Doc Rivers. Politics is so enmeshed with our sports now there must be a dialogue about it. ESPN, NBC Sports and Bleacher Report have done much reporting on what the players and coaches said with little discussion on the merits of their argument. I am here to have that conversation and push back on any false statements or inaccuracies made.
[…] We covered it extensively here the disconnect between what is demanded by athletes and coaches of the NBA over civil unrest and the truth. There is a logically fallacy in what Doc Rivers says and what he wants. Most of the recent protests are based on conspiracy theories that are promulgated by James, Rivers and other athletes. Theories like James expressed, that police officers will wake up planning to shoot a black man because they are having a bad day. Or Rivers who makes the false claim that random black man are just being shot on the street going about their daily lives. Or other athletes that have claimed “genocide” of black men. […]