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Protests and Professional Sports; How Athletes are Coping with Systemic Injustice

Updated: Aug 12

BY: Giordano Proulx

As COVID-19 restrictions have begun to ease in the past couple weeks, multiple professional sports leagues have restarted activities. Some have even begun to resume training camps. Others are beginning to resume competitive play to provide apt conclusions to their seasons. Though the pandemic continues to be an issue for leagues and athletes, another recurring theme among athletes and clubs is the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many large professional leagues in North America seem to be in favour of reform, and have released statements in support of protests. The MLB wrote in a statement that they had, “zero tolerance for racism and racial injustice.” In addition, leagues outlined ways their players can protest during play. The NFL has told players they are allowed to wear decals on their helmets to honour victims of police brutality, while the NBA has explored letting players wear pre-approved social justice messages on their jerseys. Among players, reactions have mostly been in alignment with their leagues’ responses. For example, many players like Mookie Betts and the entirety of the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals kneeled in their respective games. Moreover, WNBA players have left the court prior to the national anthem in protest.

However, some individuals are not as happy with the protests, as was the case with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who said in June that players kneeling during the national anthem are “disrespecting” America and its flag, a statement which he later apologized for. In addition, former player and Super Bowl winning coach Mike Ditka also stated that, "If you can't respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country.” The 80-year-old’s statement received backlash from fans and former players alike. Although these individual instances are outliers, there are larger organizational issues, such as the NBA not allowing its players to protest during the national anthem. This could result in fines for players and coaches if they choose to ignore these guidelines.

With these steps, leagues and players alike are hoping to bring awareness to the various types of systemic injustices present in America through protests and dialogue. The NFL has hosted meetings and town halls with its players to show their fans the damage harmful legislation and systems of oppression can have on players and everyday citizens.


*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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