The shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin police officers last week reopened deep wounds that had barely begun to close, much less heal, among Black athletes who long ago wearied of seeing the same sad movie over and over again with the same ending.
The anger and disgust those players – women and men – feel erupted as they shut down the NBA and WNBA to make sure their grievances were heard.
That the basketball players and their leagues were at the forefront is not surprising.
The WNBA and NBA and their players have long been associated with progressive causes, so their protests were to be anticipated, though shutting down their leagues completely, even briefly, was unexpected.
However, when the more conservative NHL and Major League Baseball joined in in solidarity, a wind of wokeness became stronger and more noticeable.
And, by week’s end, when players, coaches and even management from the NFL, the most conservative of sports organizations, jumped into the fight, well, that breeze became a gust.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll leapt into the fray with a monologue to the media Saturday urging his fellow White citizens to listen to what Black Americans are saying.
Said Carroll: “White people don’t know. They don’t know enough. And they need to be coached up. They need to be educated about what the heck is going on in this world. The Black people can’t scream any more. They can’t march any more. They can’t bare their souls any more to what they’ve lived with for hundreds of years.”
Carroll’s 14-minute talk followed by two days a remarkable communique issued by the Ravens, in which the team expressed its solidarity with much of the Black Lives Matter movement.
To wit, the team not only called on citizens to register to vote and to cooperate with police, but also demanded the arrest of officers who shot Blake in Wisconsin and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
The Ravens also commanded Republican Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate’s Majority Leader, to allow a vote on a bill that would ban chokeholds, end qualified immunity for police and require body cameras.
What is additionally stunning about this manifesto is that it apparently has the stamp of approval of team owner Steve Bischotti, who has already pledged his support to Black Lives Matter. This, however, is a much bolder step, and will almost certainly draw heat from his conservative fans.
There’s one more thing the team can do. They can follow the 30 NBA teams who pledged to make their arenas available to make voting safer on Election Day, November 3.
The Ravens should make the concourse and suites at their home park available as a precinct where social distancing can take place.
As it happens, the Ravens’ stadium will be vacant from their home game with Pittsburgh on October 25 until November 22, when they host Tennessee.
In other words, there will be plenty of time between team uses for the Ravens to put the winds of wokeness to good use, to show that they aren’t just about words on a website, but about doing something that will last.
And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.