Sports have always been a safe space for us. An outlet in which we are all able to escape from the stresses of normal life and society and enjoy something in a collective experience with others. That is unless your team sucks then it’s just going from one stress to another, but I digress.
The issue here however is what happens when sports melds into real life? What happens when the teams we call upon for entertainment are also called upon to do their part in what is happening in America right now?
The answer is a situation in which almost everyone loses. Even the most powerful swing, acrobatic save, thunderous dunk or bone shattering tackle can’t help our favorite sports teams in their endeavor to do what they feel is right.
— Univ. of Oklahoma (@UofOklahoma) June 2, 2020
Yesterday we all saw the internet become swept over by the #BlackOutTuesday movement. And with that we saw our some of our favorite sports teams use this as an opportunity to virtually use their voice in a way that they felt right to do so. Throughout this post, I will be sharing just a handful of #BlackOutTuesday tweets from teams, from different sports, states, cities and social backgrounds. You can choose to click on the threads of comments if you wish to to see where I am making my point if you so choose.
— Iowa State Athletics (@CycloneATH) June 2, 2020
Personally, I run the social media accounts for a minor league baseball team in the midwest, in a city that really has seen some protesting, but not to the effect of other cities. I felt compelled to do what I felt was right and share that 5×5 black square with the attached verbiage “Black Lives Matter” as did many teams, not just within my league but around the entire country did.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) June 2, 2020
Unfortunately what I mostly found from this was that for teams this was a lose-lose situation in terms of how their fans responded to this. The first “lose” situation, alludes to not doing anything at all. I am not here to shame those teams, not in the slightest. But I also believe it speaks volumes if a team doesn’t say or do something right now. If I have learned anything from this experience is that the silence is sometimes more deafening than anything else.
The other “lose” situation here of course is the backlash that these posts have received. But there were many “All Lives Matter” comments. But also people saying “Oh great, now (insert team name) is getting political.” Which in my honest humble opinion is incorrect, the hashtag has no political allegiances or sides, it mentions no politicians and this is not a party issue, this is a human and societal issue. I understand that no one wants to see their sports and politics get mixed together and I am right there with you. But I don’t view this as political. In fact I believe for many of us, we care more about how Jarrett Stidham is going to perform this fall than politics.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) June 2, 2020
The other issue with this is police enforcement and sports teams go hand in hand with each other. Teams need security at their ballpark not only for games but when everything is silent and the stadium is being unused. As I am sure other teams realized, my post was viewed negatively by some police supporters. I can understand their frustration here and I sympathize with them.
Please, let’s understand that the police in America right now are being tasked with an impossible and incredibly difficult task. What happened to George Floyd was horrible, but should police forces around the country be holding the bill and shouldering the load because of what happened in Minneapolis? No, it’s not fair to them. I believe that a vast majority of the men and women who serve and protect us are good, honest people. That unfortunately, it is the select few that give them a bad name and cast the dark shadow over the uniform and badge that many people see today.
Again, I will speak from experience as working for a minor league baseball team. The last few seasons we have held first responder appreciative games. During similar protests in 2015 we brought first responders in to a game and fed them all for free. The team I work for is exceptionally pro-police, and we will absolutely strive to keep it that way. I was raised and taught to respect every type of authority and I fully believe to this day that no matter how I feel about the individual, I will respect the position. But right now it feels as though if you’re not on 100% on one side, then you’re their enemy, and that is truly sad.
The other negative I have seen in the responses to teams is, “That’s it?” “Thanks for contributing the bare minimum” “Congratulations you just ended racism.” Social media has done our world a ton of good, but it is also an awful, awful place full of cynicism. No matter what these teams did, it wasn’t good enough.
Today, we will be pausing all of our social content as we take time for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community. #BlackOutTuesday pic.twitter.com/kIlm0Q2Qpa
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) June 2, 2020
Perhaps though this is what this struggle is truly about. Among the few voices fighting the good fight for racial equality there are 100 louder and angrier voices telling them to just play sports, they’re on the wrong side of the issue, or that what they said wasn’t good enough.
I do not, for a second, regret the post. I stand by what I did and what I believe was right as I am sure all of these other teams do today. But even for these powerful teams with large platforms, this issue is an uphill battle in which there are many sides that believe in their ideals and will defend them at any cost. Sports can heal and support a great many things but as we saw from yesterday, just from a simple black box, this issue is far from being settled.
I will simply leave you with a couple of things. First is from someone who told me this yesterday, “we should be quick to listen and slow to speak.” That is something all of us could use as a reminder during this time. The other is what I said to my boss yesterday when I alerted him about what I posted and the possible backlash that certainly did ensue. And luckily for me he is a good and understanding man who completely had my back. “We are not activists, we are simply here to entertain people.” And I am looking forward to the day where we can go back to entertaining everyone from all walks of life.
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Connor Ryan (@connoryan68)