MLS Protesting Matches: Athletes make good trouble

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(MLS) Editorial — In journalism, we are taught to refrain from making an article personal. Avoid “I” or “me.” Instead, we’re told to favor more general terms like “this article” or “this writer.” While this is typically the case, I must apologize now for not being AP approved. This is personal.

If you don’t scroll to the bottom of my articles, then you probably don’t know: I’m a Black man. As a Black person in sports media, anytime events like yesterday unfold, you feel a sense of responsibility. Feeling similar to a kid in class who was just called upon, having all eyes on you, awaiting your response. However, like the athletes I cover, I’m tired.

Time was needed, because ironically, words couldn’t be mustered.

Words that are coherent and articulate enough to publish, anyways. While I could go in depth describing my emotions, instead, I defer to Jacob Blake’s sister, Letetra Widman.

“Human Lives Mean More Than Sports”

Yesterday, the sports world was brought to a halt, and it wasn’t due to COVID-19. After the recent attempted murder of Jacob Blake, at the hand of police, emotions were high. After a night of violence at protests, athletes had seen and heard enough.

The Milwaukee Bucks were the first team to boycott their NBA Playoff game, as the shooting of Blake took place in Wisconsin. That action sparked a wave of teams, across most sports, to postpone their games as well.

WNBA, MLB and MLS all stood with their fellow athletes, and with Black people, in fighting the injustice we face constantly. LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye has been one of the more vocal players in the MLS on social justice issues. He didn’t hold back last night. In a slew of tweets, he made his feelings, his stance and his goals clear.

He, like the rest of the Black community, want real change.

And we want it now.

What started as one NBA team deciding not to play, ended with a scene eerily similar to earlier in March. Even at the time of writing this article, games for this weekend, across all leagues, have status’ unknown. Unfortunately, these actions have been met with blowback. While an educated person would agree that those given authority over us, shouldn’t use said authority to murder senselessly and needlessly, there are those on the opposition.

One of those vocal is Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen. Speaking this morning, saying in part, what happened yesterday “took the wind out” of his sails. He retaliated by announcing that next week he would lay-off 40-50 workers.

He isn’t alone either. Many in this country will be quick to defend a shooting against unarmed Black people. Whether it was the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the choking of Eric Garner or the kneeling on George Floyd, there will always be those ready to justify it. One trope commonly used: compliance.

From MLS to my own experience

Allow me to leave you with this anecdote on compliance as a Black man interacting with police. Since this is a sports publication, here are some stats. I am fortunate enough to have reached my 30th year living on this planet. I have had over 15 years of driving experience.

While I am no saint, I have no criminal record, juvenile or otherwise, no youth filled with run-ins with police, nor was I ever considered a troublemaker outside of home. I received straight A’s from grades K-9, and have two brothers who served as Alameda County Sheriffs in California.

I have been pulled over 13 times, 11 of those times out of “officer safety” had me placed in handcuffs. Of those 13 times, eight times a K-9, and backup units, were called to search my vehicle. Of those 13 times, three times the cop approached me asking where the drugs were because they “found residue in a baggie” somewhere.

Only twice have I been given a citation.

A kid with no criminal record, no history of drug use or sells, no gang affiliation, no problematic past, fully compliant, respectful, still ended up cuffed, harassed and traumatized.

While you may point out the obvious that I am still alive, imagine the anxiety, fear, inherent dread I feel when I see a police officer driving near me. Think about the quality of life, dealing with those emotions for a lifetime.

Now think about how, at 30, I question whether to bring a child, a Black child, into this world, denying myself a chance at a family, and the “American Dream” out of fear they experience the same, or worse.

I, like many of the athletes I cover, am tired. Like Letetra Widman, I don’t want pity, I want change.


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