Kneeling for Justice –
Since late last week, protesters have been storming the streets in cities across the nation in frustrations about the wrongful death of George Floyd a black man who was killed by a former white police officer, Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd was handcuffed and laying on the ground while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes. Close to three of those minutes happened as Floyd lay limp, unresponsive and lifeless.
A knee to kill. A knee to kill. The irony.
You see in 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick started a kneeling campaign to protest social injustice. Initially, he sat on the bench during the singing of the American National Anthem. After discussing his silent protest with former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, he changed from sitting to kneeling to be respectful while bringing attention to police brutality against minorities in this nation. Ultimately, Colin Kaepernick not only lost his job because of his protest, but his career in professional football. He remains a free agent after playing his last game with “The Niners” on January 1, 2017.
Almost three and a half years later, Joe Lockhart who was the NFL’s executive vice president in charge of communications and government affairs during this time says, “I was mistaken.”
Can Sports Heal? –
The nation is struggling with the death of another black man by a police officer. Cities are burning. People are scared. The sports community is speaking out. Influential sports figures across the world from basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and L.A. Lakers forward LeBron James to English footballer Jadon Sancho and New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and many more have used their platforms to voice their anger and the need for the change. Professional teams and brands including Nike, Reebok and Target also released statements calling for change.
Can this really make an impact?
Sports touch millions of people and generate millions in revenue and donations. Consider these three marquee programs:
Since 2009, the NFL has used the power of its shield to raise and donate more than $20 million to the American Cancer Association.
The NBA Cares programs have provided more than 5 million hours of hands-on service, created more than 1,300 places where kids and families can live, learn or play.
MLB’s Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life has reached more than 34 million youth and 4.6 million educators in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico since its inception in 1997.
Hundreds of athletes have foundations that raise millions for causes including education, economic empowerment, fitness, social injustice and more.
This doesn’t happen from one post, statement or continuous conversations. It’s the result of commitment. A sincere desire to change that leads to establishing goals, thoughtful planning, strategic partnerships and measurement.
Sports are emotional. Athletes and teams have large, avid fans who are passionate about them. The industry boasts about its large viewership and unique ability to reach diverse audiences.
This power can be used to advocate and eradicate police brutality so all Americans are treated equally and feel safe.
We must do it.
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