GR US

Black Lives Matter; So Does the Sanctity of Sports

Αssociated Press

Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel together around the Black Lives Matter logo on the court during the national anthem before the start of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

The senseless death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers earlier this year angered enough sincere Americans to give opportunity to insincere anarchists and run-of-the-mill thugs to further their own immortal agenda, whether it be systemic destruction of law and order or scoring quick swag in looting sprees. One major beneficiary of these uprisings was “black lives matter” – the phrase, if not the movement.

Prior to Floyd’s death, “black lives matter” was almost universally countered by the phrase “all lives matter,” the latter a protest to any notions that black lives matter more than other lives do. However, throughout the summer, “black lives matter” enjoyed a public relations rebirth, with its proponents successfully articulating its intended meaning: namely, that of course all lives matter, but in the United States at the present time, not all lives face the same degree of peril. Considered in its most earnest form, the phrase is a cry for help, not a competition about whether one race is more important than another. But just as the KKK hijacked Christianity and numerous Middle East jihadist groups hijacked Islam, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement hijacked a very decent and heartfelt sentiment. The problem is, most of its supporters don’t see the difference between the organization and the idea.

A way to reconcile the dilemma is to express the notion but alter the slogan, such as: “black lives absolutely do matter,” or “we must save black lives.” That way, we all can do our part to continue to raise the social consciousness about the persistence of a Neanderthal mindset such as racism that continues to survive in a supposedly enlightened world, without giving a voice to the multitudes of connivers who attached themselves to BLM.

Moreover, the message has been coercively imposed upon the sports world, which is an outlet sorely missed by fans during social distancing.

As excited as I had been to welcome the return of the National Basketball Association (NBA), albeit with games played in virtually empty arenas, I was disheartened and downright stunned at the spectacle that I saw before my very eyes on July 31 when my beloved Boston Celtics played against the mighty top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. I may be of Greek descent, and the Bucks may be led by Giannis the ‘Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo – considered by many the best player in the league and without question in the top five – but when it comes to basketball, I am Celtics Irish Shamrocks through and through. I’ve been a loyal Celtics fan for decades, and nothing they’ve done caused me to lose faith or enthusiasm. Not the long lag before they made Dennis Johnson and Kevin McHale integral forces on both ends of the ball, not the ill-fated strategy of trying to build around Rajon Rondo, and not the terrible Kendrick Perkins trade in 2011 (for you non-fans, sorry for the momentary lapse into hoops talk). What I witnessed on July 31st, though, made me second guess whether I still wanted to follow that team – or any other NBA team – because of their knee-jerk kowtowing to political overcorrectness. Rather than wearing their surnames on the backs of their jerseys, players on both the Celtics and the Bucks bore various slogans of the BLM variety. The words Black Lives Matter were draped across the court, and players and coaches alike kneeled in unison during the playing of our National Anthem. Notably, one player, Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic was heralded a hero for actually wearing his own name; sales of his jersey exploded, surpassing even those of the Freak (who chose to bear the name ‘Equality’).

Sporting events, particularly in the United States, are a welcome distraction from conflict. Equally importantly, they are the most wonderful example of colorblindness: coaches and managers will utilize the best player(s) in order to win. Even if one among them secretly harbored racism, he would never sit a black superstar in order to play a mediocre white guy. Similarly and quite refreshingly, neither would anyone dare to, say, bench Green Bay Packers franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers in order to give his rookie backup, Jordan Love, who is black, a chance to play. In a nation where the ills of racism continue to fester and are often made worse by preposterous “social justice” remedies, sports is the ultimate safe space from the nonsense – or at least it was until recently.

The merits of any of these causes are irrelevant; it’s just that they don’t belong in sports.

Whether it is a controversial logo, such as BLM or a MAGA hat, a universally embraced idea, such as finding a cure for cancer, or a harmless advertisement, such as for Adidas or Nike. Keep it off the uniforms. All I want to see are the players’ numbers and last names (unless of course it’s the Yankees, whose own tradition keeps names off).

Many snowflakes were apoplectic when conservative commentator Laura Ingraham suggested that outspoken NBA great LeBron James “shut up and dribble.” I wouldn’t have put it so abrasively, but to suggest she did that because James is black – as if she wouldn’t have told Robert DeNiro to “shut up and act” or Barbra Streisand to “shut up and sing” – is absurd, and it’s warped thinking like that, where racism is reflexively injected into the conversation, that emboldens Trump voters who are not racists themselves but are sick and tired of the Cancel Culture.

In fact, when athletes, actors, singers, and other entertainers impose their political views onto their fans, it is like a sucker punch in the gut. They are alienating many, because the joy these fans derive from such performances are not political in nature, and therefore these celebrities’ bases can be quite ideologically diverse.

I’ll give my Celtics another chance, but I’m only interested in whether they can stop Giannis, LeBron, and other NBA elite players. I don’t give a hoot about their thoughts on the political and social issues of the day, nor do I appreciate them waving them in my face.

Play ball!