By Howard Robertson and Larry Robinson, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Currently, there’s a major matter of what matters. The great semantic debate is between Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. But additionally, what Michael Smith co-host of ESPN’s “His & Hers” says matters is for professional athletes like Carmelo Anthony to move their social activism beyond social media. Tweets and posts are flimsy, weak and innocuous in heads-up comparison to an action verb like boycott.
Smith makes a tremendous point that NBA players like ’Melo – who already have multiple Olympic medals, for whom winning at the Olympics has no effect whatsoever on their income or professional status and another medal is no more than icing on their career cake –should strongly consider making a statement of protest or a no show in Rio.
If there was ever an opportune time to pass on participating in the Olympic Games, this one is it. Crime, filth, pollution, corruption and disease are growing and going unchecked in Rio de Janeiro. U.S. athletes will be hosted in the nastiest national environment in modern history.
The top four golfers in the world: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory Mcllroy won’t be participating in the Olympics because of Zika concerns. They represent different countries and these guys don’t already have Olympic medals because 2016 is the first Olympics including golf in the modern era. They are concerned about a virus called Zika. Shouldn’t African-American athletes be concerned about the virus of inhumanity, hate and public police executions of people that look like them?
Social media posts and T-shirt messages absolutely don’t represent that the world’s most talented, elite and well-paid athletes are “all in.” As a matter of fact, regarding the Olympics, all out would send the most powerful protest message of being all in. Besides, how many Olympic medals are enough?
What if black athletes got together and decided that those who already have Olympic medals will boycott the Rio Olympics to protest what’s happening in America? Then, if the other athletes – either first-timers or those who’ve never won a medal – do win gold, silver or bronze, they can signify their protest on the medal stand with a raised fist. Imagine the messages those actions would send to the world.
ESPN’s Smith said, “There’s nothing more American than the Olympics serving as a stage for social protest with the world watching and listening.”
We agree. But there are a number of reasons why we have little to no confidence in this type of protest ever taking place.
Reason One: Although wealthy, powerful and influential, many of today’s athletes have a very low threshold for controversy, inconvenience and are largely risk averse. They don’t usually put themselves out there like that.
Reason Two: The reality that many athletes are down for the cause…but only to a point. Legendary athletes such as Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others truly understood about the “greater good.” They were among the blessed and highly favored few that looked like us and had the high profile celebrity to send messages on behalf of the least of these. They were willing to sacrifice some things and endure negative press, fan anger, jeopardizing endorsements, etc. Many today have little to no desire to sacrifice anything, including global notoriety and yet another shiny medal for the mantel.
Reason Three: The reality that this type of protest would require effective leadership. Some combination of (an all-star team of one-namers) like: Carmelo, Serena, Venus, Magic, Kobe, Barkley and even Carlos and Smith could make something happen. But…well, so much for that.
So, thank you Michael Smith for some tremendously innovative, hyper-progressive, politically powerful protest strategy that we at “R&R on Sports” are always happy to help refine and tweak. Too bad it’s merely wishful thinking and nothing more than a pipe dream that we don’t have the people, organization, will or wherewithal to pull off. Maybe one day. Let’s keep dreaming.
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