As a month after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis crowds continue to take to the streets, from Los Angeles to Madrid to Paris, to protest racial injustice and police violence, Rayshard Brooks, a black American the 27-year-old was gunned down by a police officer in Atlanta just outside a Wendy’s restaurant. Abuses of power, lack of proportionality and a minor conflict that degenerates into murder are situations that are repeated almost daily. The more it changes, the more it is the same.
But the death of George Floyd will mark the history of the country for a long time. Unlike the hundreds of cases of racial profiling, social injustice and police brutality each year in the United States, this case, probably due to the numerous video clips on social media, will have been the “tipping point“, The case of too much violence. The sports world quickly mobilized, starting with a few big names like LeBron James, Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Patrick Mahomes. Hundreds of other American athletes also intervened to demonstrate and speak out.
Old combat, new weapons
These champions have a huge influence on a global scale thanks to social media, on which they can position their messages in a powerful way on specific subjects. They also contributed financially to organizations fighting against abuse and helping the families of the victims. Jordan and his company Jumpman23 will contribute $ 100 million over the next ten years. Nike, Adidas and several major brands have confirmed very generous donations. And the NFL will invest 250 million over the next ten years.
Previous column: “The Last Dance”: the Michael Jordan I know
The fact remains that these inequalities and the events which ensue from them do not date from yesterday and have already triggered many reactions by athletes in the past. From Jesse Owens, indifferent to Hitler, winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, to Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fist at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, via Jackie Robinson, in 1947, became the first black American to evolve in MLB baseball after decades of discrimination and oppression. In 1967, Mohamed Ali refused to join the American armed forces for the Vietnam War. He was sentenced by a federal judge and banned from boxing for four years.
An influence in the ballot boxes
More recently, Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, was already demonstrating in 2016 against social injustice and the actions of the police towards black Americans. At the start of the NFL season, he knelt on the ground during the national anthem and explained his actions as a non-violent form of protest against the police’s abuse of power. He was literally the visionary of this cause but was immediately rejected and isolated by the NFL for his action. Since the 2016 season, Kaepernick has never received a contract offer again. Today, the country is seeing how right it was in 2016. Today LeBron James creates More Than a Vote with former and active NBA players with the aim of African-Americans making their voices heard and voting . There is no doubt that when the most iconic athletes take a stand and use their influence, the general public listens.
Also read: Sport in support of George Floyd
The tragedies of the past few weeks are emblematic of the palpable problems in the United States. Many athletes in the NBA, NFL and NHL know their value and their influence, they accept their responsibility and want to get involved and help change society. It is also an opportunity for them to humanize themselves, and even to tell their own stories of injustice or racial profiling.
The challenge for American society is that of power and influence. And the division is clearly noticeable, starting with the leadership at the White House. Leadership is not present. We cultivate discrimination and confrontation at the expense of unity and collaboration. It is a culture of hatred that is put forward. We divide instead of uniting. But not among athletes. They want to contribute to a solution. Their influence is contagious. They are committed to this cause. They talk about education and change, and their message is strong.
Black Lives Matter.