Earlier than sports activities get credit score for doing the proper factor, keep in mind how lengthy it took to get there
And not long after, another crowd, fueled by riots across the country in response to another extrajudicial assassination of a black man, and seeking revenge by attacking symbols of systemic racism and white supremacy, made it to the RFK Stadium of all places . A sports facility.
There it was aimed at the memorial to George Preston Marshall, a segregationist who happened to be the founder of the Washington Football Team and who was proud to run an all-white club, the last in the NFL until the federal government forced him to integrate. Marshall even used Confederate images to promote his team.
It should have been destroyed years ago. Just like the name of the team Marshall owned for the first 37 years. A month later, the name was finally thrown in the heap of sports history.
But it was re-emphasized that we have given sports loans that are not considered to be pioneers of social justice. It was a reminder that sport often lagged behind progress. That they played by the reprehensible rules of society instead of destroying them. They have only fulfilled their celebrated ideals of meritocracy under pressure or threat. So it was the Racial Bills tsunami that flooded all of our institutions after the police murder of Floyd on May 25th that got the sport back to do the right thing.
It was more than an accident. It was a decided omission.
The Negro leagues were born 100 years ago, three decades after the majors refused to let more descendants of enslaved Africans play under them. MLB celebrated this entrepreneurship last season, as did Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play on its teams since Moses Fleetwood Walker in the late 1880s. But until Wednesday the major leagues refused to recognize the players of the Negro leagues as equal. The Negro leagues were not included in 1969 when a Special Baseball Records Committee determined which other leagues had qualified as major since 1876. And the majors were reluctant to apologize for their complicity in forcing black men to play what was hailed as America’s pastime only to one another.
“Accordingly, the stats and records of these players become part of the history of Major League Baseball,” said MLB.
Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn admitted in the statement: “The perceived flaws in the structure and planning of the Negro Leagues are due to MLB’s exclusionary practices, and denial of Major League status has been a double penalty Called for Hall of Fame candidates prior to the introduction of Satchel Paige in 1971. “
Also on Wednesday, the NCAA learned that the Supreme Court would consider a case against the association’s boundaries to pay its athletes like the workers many like me claim to be. The supreme court’s unusual move into the sport came after advocates of fairer treatment for college athletes had succeeded and won legislative and court battles, such as in California last year when a law was passed that approved it Athletes allowed to earn with their names. Images and similarities that the NCAA long banned.
Don’t make a mistake though. Again, this is a question of racial justice, because the NCAA’s elixir of life rests on the toil and sweat of most black men who disproportionately populate the ranks of the two most profitable college sports – soccer and basketball. Revenues from these two sports make up a large chunk of the billions that make up conference commissioners, sporting directors and coaches, most of whom are white men and multimillionaires. Ernie Chambers, a longtime Nebraska state lawmaker, began deciphering the financial exploitation of black soccer players for the Cornhuskers in the 1980s, demanding that they earn a paycheck for their work. But right now the problem could be resolved.
Earlier this week, the Cleveland baseball franchise announced that it was dropping the Indians name for good. After 105 years. And much of the past 30 years as Native Americans and those of us who empathize with them have called for the derogatory name and image to be cleaned up. They are nobody’s mascot. No people are.
But no corner of society has done more than sport to normalize and ignore such denigration, mostly through commercialization. One day, Washington soccer team coach Ron Rivera requested and received a portrait of the team’s Indian head logo that he so admired, an image that many Native Americans found angry and resentful. He featured it prominently in his new home. It wasn’t until the destructive crew came to Marshall’s memorial and eventually the team name changed to Rivera that he changed his mind.
It’s a familiar timeline. And it’s free from altruism. After all the years of flying the Confederate flag over NASCAR, the practice has only been curtailed in recent months. Bubba Wallace, a lone black rider in the sport born of deep Jim Crow South, advocated the Black Lives Matter movement and nearly called on the racing league to stop the banner of the slave economy and racial opposition to human rights events . It heeded his words in early June.
Wallace’s stance, adopted by many of his fellow passengers, no doubt encouraged black soccer players at the University of Mississippi to tell the state to remove the Confederate stars and bars from the state flag or they would no longer be wearing soccer or doing a tackle for the state’s flagship school. The state parliament voted for a flag change at the end of June.
Sport is to be applauded for the steps it has taken in recent months to reconcile its racist past. But the standing ovations should go to those who, for many years and especially the last few months in the Black Lives Matter movement, have called for our games to be played fairly, or otherwise.
Kevin B. Blackistone, ESPN panelist and visiting professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, writes sports commentary for the Washington Post.