Events of the past several weeks have shown that there is profound social unrest in our country. Over centuries, African Americans have been discriminated against in many different ways, recently escalating with incidents of police brutality and violence. At least three African Americans - Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd - were killed by either the police or white civilians earlier this year. Thousands of protests are happening all over America as a way of responding to the injustice. As a result, many athletes have been using their social platform to create change, take a stand, and call for action.
Notable athletes have been vocal for change, using their platform to speak out. One of those players has been none other than LeBron James. He has made many social media posts expressing the difficulties of being an African American, letting people know the reasons for his activism, and stating that white people always command African Americans what to do. He made an emotional video with the sound of a basketball hitting the floor and as the ball hit the floor, a new white command would pop up. The captions went from "Shut up and dribble", which Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham told him back in 2018, to "Shut up and lay still." James concluded the video saying, "This is why we can't just stick to sports. Do you understand now?" Colin Kaepernick has probably earned the most praise from other athletes and coaches since he kneeled for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season. His purpose was to draw attention to all of the racism and police brutality against African-Americans. He's now became a symbol of resistance to the unfair treatment of African Americans. Recently, he created a legal defense initiative called Know Your Rights Camp "for victims of excessive force by police terrorism and civil rights violations."
NFL and MLB players have created group videos for their own respective leagues condemning racism. The NFL video featured Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson, and others. All of the players pushed the NFL to make a statement condemning racism, saying "What will it take? For one of us to be brutally murdered by the police?" They named numerous African Americans who were killed, that could've been them. The video concludes with all of them stating, "On behalf of the National Football League this is what we, the players would like to hear you state: We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter." www.instagram.com/p/CBN8b4Kn4S0/
As for baseball, Giancarlo Stanton tweeted a video which included him and other players such as Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts. They used #Players4BLM while vowing to make their voices louder toward creating change. Their message was, "We've been told that our peaceful pleas were not made at the right time, at the right place, in the right way. We've been told to 'wait.' But we remember when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us that the word 'wait' has almost always meant never. We will wait no longer. We will make our voices louder for all of us who can and for all of those who could not." www.instagram.com/p/CBeefY6lNeu/
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson was a longtime friend of George Floyd. After hearing the news of his death, he flew to Minneapolis, where he's spoken at rallies about Floyd's story to bring attention to the police brutality that still occurs. Soon, he became an unforeseen spokesman for the family and the Black Lives Matter movement which has gained momentum around the world. He also gave a passionate speech on May 29 during a news conference at Minneapolis City Hall. At Floyd's funeral in Houston, he sat next to Floyd's daughter Gianna and later held her up on her shoulders at a rally. Jackson not only promises to take care of Gianna, but to bring justice for the family. His work earned lots of praise from many players, commissioner Adam Silver, former teammates, and coaches.
Despite the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is still controversy over some methods of protesting. Drew Brees said in an interview that he will never agree with anyone who kneels during the National Anthem. Many people such as James and even Brees's teammates spoke out against Brees. Even though Brees is well-liked within the football community, his comments show the lack of understanding he and many other Americans still have about racism. The responses from many fans and players who were upset by his comments shows the increase in their support toward protests against discrimination. Shortly after the interview, Brees issued an apology pledging to be an ally for the African-American community in fighting for racial equality and social justice.
This is the first time that athletes of all sports are using their social platform to create change. LeBron James recently created an initiative called More Than a Vote with the goal of standing up against racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting communities. Other athletes and entertainers have teamed up together to reach out to communities. Within one month, the organization has already identified major cities in key states in hopes of having an impact.
During this month, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace spoke out against the Confederate flag, saying it was a symbol of hate, not heritage. He successfully used his platform as the the only full-time African American driver at the top level to call for Confederate flags to be banned at NASCAR events. His viewpoints have caused him to give up sponsorships, but he has always put his beliefs over money. Shortly after he took this stand, a rope was found in his garage which was thought to be a noose. After investigations, it turned out not to be a hate crime, but the support he received was encouraging. This included an emotional procession of other drivers following Wallace who was driving his car to the front of the pit road.
This is a unique time for our country. It's important that athletes contribute to society in other ways besides just playing sports. Those ways may be varied, but recently many have come together with the purpose of working toward racial equality. It's time for the rest of the world to not just approve the work that athletes are doing, but rather make our own effort to make a difference in some way.
Here are some links to organizations founded by and supported by athletes:
Last year's offseason for the New York Knicks was one of the most disappointing ones in recent memory. With high hopes of getting Zion Williamson, the number one pick, along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency, it looked like their bad fortunes would finally change. Instead, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The Knicks lost out on Williamson, although R.J. Barrett was having a good rookie season. Even worse, Durant and Irving decided to sign with the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets. So as the Knicks' troubles continue, how can their fortunes change this upcoming offseason?
The first move that Knicks General Manager Leon Rose should make is to hire a coach. While their interim coach Mike Miller wasn't awful, he's clearly not the answer to their problems. There are going to be a lot of available coaches who have impressive resumes, such as former Knicks' assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, and former Knicks' head coach Jeff Van Gundy. The guy who should be their first target is Mark Jackson, a Queens native who was a point guard for the team in the late 80s and early 90s. As a coach, he deserves a lot of credit for helping begin the Warriors' dynasty. He allowed Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to develop under a coaching environment that had both of them as the focal points of the offense. The team improved in his final two years, making the playoffs twice before Steve Kerr eventually took them to the top. His ability to develop players, as well as his New York roots, make him a good fit for the Knicks.
For the draft, the Knicks' top position need is point guard. Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton have their moments and earned roles on the team, but not as starters. In the draft, point guards such as LaMelo Ball and Cole Anthony will probably be available for the Knicks to select. For Ball, his defense is questionable and his 3 point shooting needs work. However, his scoring and passing make him a top prospect. Another notable option for them is Cole Anthony, who posted an impressive 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists at North Carolina. He could be a big steal if his shot improves. The Knicks' first choice should be Anthony, based on the fact that he was the only bright spot on a talent-starved team and they would avoid Ball's volatile father Lavar.
Since Leon Rose was hired, the Knicks have been monitoring big name players, but the main person they should target is Chris Paul. Though he's 35 years old, his leadership and playmaking are the reasons why the Oklahoma City Thunder were overachieving this season. The Knicks wouldn't have to give up one of their young players or a high draft pick to acquire Paul. The Knicks should also target Paul because he'd be re-united with Rose, who was his agent. On the court, Paul's playmaking should help the Knicks win more games in the short term. In the long term, his leadership will help the development of players such as Barrett and Mitchell Robinson. More importantly, he's a guy who can bring a winning culture to a losing franchise, something the Knicks desperately need.
Every Knicks' offseason has some plan to revive the franchise. Most of the time, their plan fails and they have to start all over again. The focus of this year's plan is to make their young players better. Hiring a coach known to get the best out of his players, drafting well, and getting one of the best point guards of the millennium can give these guys a boost of confidence to succeed in the long term. Winning may not come immediately, but by making all of these moves, it can establish a winning culture.