Category Archives: National Anthem

No Love?

By Brody Hickle

Submitted: September 22, 2020 / Published: November 26, 2020

Brody Hickle grew up in Bluffton, Ohio and now studies Sport Management at Bowling Green State University. The fourth-year undergraduate student minors in General Business. His primary sport interests are hockey and football.

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In my last article, I wrote about the Black Lives Matter Movement affecting the professional sport leagues across America, especially with the NBA. If you kept up with the NBA, you can see that they took this movement seriously. The National Basketball Association has shown great support to the fallen African American individuals who were lost to police brutality and to the black communities across America.  I wanted to continue focusing on what the media has done as we head deeper into the fall season of sports. The media has brought great attention to the awareness and expects us all to believe that it is right to  bring this matter  into sports. But the question is, does everyone believe in this movement in sports? Obviously, the answer is no. Viewings have gone down due to the offense drawn to individuals from athletes kneeling during the National Anthem.  

It seems right now in the sport world that there are many political judgements coming into sports.  During the beginning of the NBA playoffs, we witnessed less fans watching professional sports due to the protests of kneeling during the National Anthem. In week 1 of the NFL season, the African American National Anthem was played before the National Anthem (Fans boo Chiefs, 2020). It created a lot of attention to fans at the stadiums, and the fans at home.  During the Chiefs vs Texans game in week 1, the fans in the stadium booed  the players  loudly, as the players locked arms in the middle of the field (Fans boo Chiefs, 2020). This  was  strange to me because they were not kneeling, as the NBA athletes have done.  So statistically, what has this done to the viewings of sports?  

From research, Anne Hendershott (2020) released statistics indicating  that 30 percent of American adults are now less likely to watch sporting  events that  promote Black Lives Matter. However, 21%  are more likely to watch sporting events.  Additionally,  35% of individuals say that they will never watch any event that promotes Black Lives Matter. Now, obviously the NFL, NBA, and MLB are all too aware of this. So, let us look  at  how they have responded.  

NBA coach, Doc Rivers, made an emotional appeal  following the shooting of  Jacob Blake.  In Kenosha, Wisconsin, there was a video recorded by an individual in the neighborhood where Blake walked away from the cops as if he had not done anything wrong. As he reached to his car, the cops shot Jacob seven times in the back. This would cause another protest in America due to the beliefs from individuals that the cops should have been arrested afterwards (Steinbuch, 2020).  

The shooting of Jacob Blake seemed to create many controversies after the incident. Just like the riots, it seems now that the politicians have turned this movement  into  a “left vs. right” subject. For  example, as election year is coming to a close, it seemed from my experience that many individuals Republican views  do not support Black Lives Matter,  while  many individuals with  Democratic views  do. 

Going back to Doc Rivers. Doc Rivers has been a coach in the NBA for numerous teams throughout the years. In his statement, he talks about fear. ESPN staff writer Ohm  Youngmisuk  cited  Rivers ’ words, “All you hear is Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied living in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about  fear.” (Youngmisuk, 2020, para. 3). In  the video, you can see the  emotions that  not only reflect how Rivers feels, but also how much of  the black community  must  feel.  

Now, going back to the Texans vs. Chiefs game that I mentioned before, according to CBS news, JJ Watt mentioned that he thought the booing was unfortunate. He stated that he fully did not understand it. I also learned from CBS that there were two players who did kneel with their fists in  the air in solidarity for social injustice (Fans boo Chiefs, 2020). Even the video they shared before the game promoting Black Lives Matter created controversy.  

One more statistic that I want to share by Sam Amico is that ABC is down 12% of their viewership from last year to this year (Amico, 2020).  ABC does many coverings for the NBA, and it started after the kneeling of the National Anthem. With all of this mentioned, I will now share my opinion with the media towards this matter. I do believe that the media is doing the right thing, promoting the players who believe that everyone deserves justice. I do appreciate them showing everyone why it is important to protest for this matter and why it is more than just kneeling. If you remember in my last article, kneeling is about respect and difference. I will say, however, in some fields of the media, such as social media platforms, I do wish they could share middle ground stating that there are good police officers out there.  Lastly, I believe that this should not be a political issue in sports. I believe that professional sport organizations are doing the right thing. Showing support and solidarity makes you more than an athlete.  With mentioning that there are less fans watching sports from this matter, I believe that those fans should look into the meaning behind the movement before making assumptions.  

References:

Amico, S. (2020, February 14). NBA TV Ratings Plummet by Double digits as Interest Wanes, Insiders say. Sports Illustrated. https://www.si.com/nba/cavaliers/news/nba-tv-ratings-abc-espn-tnt

Fans boo Chiefs, Texans players during moment of silence at NFL opener. (2020, September 11). CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chiefs-texans-fans-booing-nfl-opener-moment-silence/

Hendershott, A. (2020, August 1). New evidence: Key fans unhappy with sport leagues kowtowing to Black Lives Matter. The American Spectator. https://spectator.org/black-lives-matter-protests-sports-fans-rasmussen/

Steinbuch, Y. (2020, August 25). Jacob Blake was Shot Less Than Three Minutes After Police Arrival. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2020/08/27/jacob-blake-was-shot-less-than-three-minutes-after-cops-arrived/

Youngmisuk, O. (2020, August 25). Clippers Coach Doc Rivers on Jacob Blake Shooting: We Got to Demand Better. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29740593/clippers-coach-doc-rivers-jacob-blake-shooting-got-demand-better

This Is Us: Softball’s walkout that the media missed

By Pershelle Rohrer

October 6, 2020

Pershelle Rohrer is a second-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

On June 22, 2020, the Scrap Yard Dawgs, an independent professional softball team, played the first of what was supposed to be a seven-game series against Florida-based USSSA Pride. The game marked the return of softball, as the sport was one of the first to restart from the coronavirus-related shutdown that effectively halted sports in March. The New York Times writer Natalie Weiner (2020) noted, “For a few hours this week, softball had a shot at something it has pursued for decades: the spotlight” (para. 1). The sport did receive attention following the game, but it wasn’t because of the teams’ play on the field. Rather, a mid-game tweet from Scrap Yard’s general manager caused an uproar that led all 18 players and the team’s coaches to walk away from the team (Poe, 2020).

When the players arrived back in the locker room following the game, they were met with screenshots and texts about the tweet. Scrap Yard general manager Connie May posted a photo on Scrap Yard’s Twitter page of the team standing on the field during the national anthem, tagging President Donald Trump’s Twitter handle with the caption, “Hey @realDonaldTrump Pro Fastpitch being played live … Everyone standing for the FLAG!” (Poe, 2020, para. 3). The President has been critical of athletes who kneel for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. The tweet was posted at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, just shy of a month after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The tweet was deleted before the conclusion of the game.

The players quickly identified May as the poster of the tweet and met with her to discuss the issue. May used the phrase “all lives matter” during the meeting, a statement that is often used in opposition to “Black lives matter” in order to disregard the struggles of the Black community to find justice and equality (Weiner, 2020). Kiki Stokes, one of Scrap Yard’s two Black players, walked out of the meeting, and the rest of the team followed (Hays, 2020b).

Players expressed their frustration about the politicization of the post. Pitcher and Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman said, “We were used as pawns in a political post, and that’s not OK” (Weiner, 2020, para. 9). USSSA Pride player A.J. Andrews emphasized the freedom to express personal political beliefs but opposed speaking for an entire group without consent. “Any statement anyone wants to make regarding the national anthem — it’s their right to take their own personal stand. It’s no one else’s right to take that for them. So to have someone shift that and have it come out in a statement that does not represent you as a person — you feel violated,” she said (Brunt, 2020, para. 9).

The story spread through the players’ social media accounts, which they used to call out Connie May. Aubree Munro and Aubrey Leach both emphasized that “this isn’t us” and stated that they wouldn’t play for Scrap Yard again.

May’s tweet from the Scrap Yard page was a deviation from the norm. Jade Hewitt, a longtime employee of Scrap Yard, managed the team’s social media almost exclusively. It was unusual for anyone else to post to the Scrap Yard accounts, so when May’s tweet was posted, many people assumed that it was written by Hewitt (Hays, 2020a). May’s decision to tweet from the official account not only took away the voices of the players, but also caused Hewitt to receive backlash for something that she did not post (Hays, 2020a).  It was a demonstration of how quickly a social media post can spread and the impact it can have on the image of the individuals involved with its creation.

Hewitt said, “I did not write or post that tweet. It is not what I personally stand for. I stand by our athletes, I stand by our players. And Scrap Yard is no longer an organization that I will be affiliated with” (Hays, 2020a, para. 13).

Scrap Yard’s players pledged to never represent the organization again, and many fans and media members assumed that their season was over. However, the players felt that they could continue to make an impact on the field. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik (2020) wrote, “The players may have left the Scrap Yard Dawgs behind, but had no intention of walking away from softball, especially after what happened. So they did the next best thing: They started their own team” (para. 3). The 18 players, 11 of whom are listed on the United States roster for the Tokyo Olympics, rebranded as “This Is Us” with the intention of continuing their series against the USSSA Pride (Poe, 2020). The team developed a mission statement, saying that This Is Us is “here to spark a necessary change in the softball community, gaining and sharing knowledge about racial injustice in our world” (Hays, 2020b, para. 4). 

The team put their words into action following their first game under the new brand. This Is Us defeated the Pride, 3-1, on June 27. Kiki Stokes and Samantha Show took a stand against social injustice by kneeling for the national anthem prior to the contest, and Sam Fischer led a moderated panel discussion on the field following the game. Stokes, Show, Aubree Munro, and Taylor Edwards participated in the discussion about the events of the past week (Rosenberg, 2020).

Media members praised the players of Scrap Yard for making the difficult decision to leave the team behind despite the potential financial insecurity it could cause. The Orlando Sentinel’s Julia Poe (2020) talked about the risk behind the decision, explaining that, “Professional softball is a high-risk, low income sport in the U.S., with players coaching or picking up extra jobs on the side to support their careers” (para. 11). ESPN’s Graham Hays (2020b) wrote that Scrap Yard was one of the most lucrative options for softball players to compete professionally without going overseas to Japan. Natasha Watley, the first Black softball player for team USA, emphasized that, “We’re already getting paid pennies and now we’re going to get paid nothing to stand up for this. That’s how much it matters” (Poe, 2020, para. 14).

Despite the potential financial issues the walkout could cause, Cat Osterman explained that the decision to rebrand was easy. “We’re not going to tolerate that in our sport. It wasn’t as hard of a decision as everyone thinks it was, because we knew it was the right thing to do,” she said (Weiner, 2020, para. 20).

This Is Us played through donations and fundraising before Smash It Sports helped sponsor the team. USSSA helped provide uniforms for the team and planned on hosting the team for at least 20 games against the Pride with the season ending on July 24 (Rosenberg, 2020). However, the season was cancelled on July 8 after just five games due to This Is Us being exposed to COVID-19 (Hays, 2020c). 

While This Is Us didn’t have the opportunity to finish their season, their story was covered by national news outlets such as the New York Times and Associated Press (Rosenberg, 2020). However, sports media, particularly ESPN, had little to no coverage of the series of events. Graham Hays was the only ESPN writer to cover This Is Us, writing three articles about their journey from quitting Scrap Yard to the rebrand to the season’s cancellation. ESPN’s social media accounts do not have any coverage of this story. Social media plays a major influence in fans’ perceptions of sports, and ESPN’s lack of coverage could be a cause of This Is Us’ story remaining virtually unknown in the sports world three months later. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik, Softball America’s Benjamin Rosenberg, and Sports Illustrated’s Jenna West also released stories about This Is Us, but it remains unknown how much more coverage an entire team’s disaffiliation would have received if it occurred in a more popular sport. 

The rebranding of the Scrap Yard players into This Is Us helped inspire change in a predominantly white sport. “Playing would be really powerful, taking that control back that was taken away from us,” This Is Us player Sam Fischer noted (Hays, 2020b, para. 8). That goal should be considered a success, as the softball world united behind the 18 players who walked out and supported them on their goal for achieving racial equality. Although their season was short, This Is Us looks to continue to fight for social justice in 2021 and beyond.

References

Aubree_Munro1. (2020, June 22). Tonight we were misrepresented by Connie May who acted on behalf of @ScrapYardFP I’m appalled by the insentivity & will not represent Scrap Yard ever again. I’m so sorry to all my friends & teammates and the future softball players that are hurt by this. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Aubree_Munro1/status/1275247782648053760?s=20

aubrey_lynne10. (2020, June 22). THIS ISN’T US! What has happened was incredibly inconsiderate, we do not condone, and will no longer be supporting @ScrapYardFP due to the actions taken behind our backs. This season was ment to be something special, to be a light in the darkness. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/aubrey_lynne10/status/1275239965862002692?s=20

aubrey_lynne10. (2020, June 22). [Statement following Connie May tweet] [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/aubrey_lynne10/status/1275245355995664384?s=20

Brunt, C. (2020, June 25). Pro softball team suffers fallout after GM’s anthem tweet. Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/b624cbde1bff8817ee8a112646f5322e

Cwik, C. (2020, June 26). How a Donald Trump tweet controversy inspired pro softball players to speak out and form a new team. Yahoo! Entertainment. https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/how-a-donald-trump-tweet-controversy-inspired-pro-softball-players-to-stand-up-and-form-a-new-team-191245388.html

Hays, G. (2020a, June 23). Scrap Yard Dawgs softball players walk out after GM’s tweet about national anthem. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/29353915/scrap-yard-dawgs-softball-players-walk-gm-tweet-national-anthem

Hays, G. (2020b, June 27). Ex-Scrap Yard softball players return to form This Is Us team. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/29372544/ex-scrap-yard-softball-players-return-form-us-team

Hays, G. (2020c, July 8). ‘This Is Us’ all-star softball team cancels season 2 weeks after launch. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/29431087/this-us-all-star-softball-team-cancels-season-2-weeks-launch

Poe, J. (2020, June 29). This Is Us softball team formed in response to Donald Trump anthem tweet. Orlando Sentinel. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/os-sp-softball-this-is-us-anthem-donald-trump-20200630-qaoyfr4oxfd57b5wowelpjzjr4-story.html

Rosenberg, B. (2020, July 6). This Is Us Softball hopes to continue fight for racial justice. Softball America. https://www.softballamerica.com/stories/this-is-us-softball-hopes-to-continue-fight-for-racial-justice/

Weiner, N. (2020, June 24). A softball team’s tweet to Trump leads players to quit mid-series. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/sports/scrap-yard-softball-anthem-tweet.html

Unity in Sports

By: Brody Hickle

July 31, 2020

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Brody Hickle grew up in Bluffton, Ohio and now studies Sport Management at Bowling Green State University. The third-year undergraduate student minors in General Business. His primary sport interests are hockey and football.

Everybody remembers their favorite moment in sports entertainment. Whether it would be your favorite team winning the championship of your favorite sport, seeing a walk-off hit in baseball, or anything else for that matter. On July 30, 2020, the New Orleans Pelicans took on the Utah Jazz for their first game since the suspension of the National Basketball Association due to the coronavirus. Before the game started, they played the National Anthem (The Star-Spangled Banner), just like before every sporting event. In that moment, I got to witness what I would judge to be, the most amazing thing I have ever seen in sports. Every player put their arm around each other and took a knee to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Seeing the emotions from the players combined with the music was really eye opening. Here is the video, which was posted by the NBA.

Because of recent happenings with police brutality against African Americans and the realization that systematic racism remains in America, I have strongly supported the Black Lives Matter movement. It all started with the tragic death of George Floyd. Shortly after his death, we started seeing many protests around the country, and there were also many riots.* These protests are still going around the country today. I will say that these protests have really opened my eyes. I will admit that at first, I was a little skeptical about the riots, but after doing my own research around the civil rights movement in history, I started getting a better understanding of the riots.

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We all can remember the former civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I believe that when some think about these riots, we may wonder, “Why can’t we be peaceful?” I thought that at first, but one of my friends who participated in my college drumline, reminded me that he was shot and killed in the end, after what he accomplished from the changes he made. From there, I realized that I am a privileged citizen in the United States, and that changes need to be made in this country. I came across this video that provides an experiment with white and African American citizens in the United States. The article by Korin Miller shows compelling evidence of privilege in the United States.

The Pelicans and Jazz are not the only times we have seen kneeling for the National Anthem. We remember when former star 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick first sat down during the National Anthem, and he was criticized for it. Eventually, he met with a soldier by the name of Nate Boyer who would convince him to kneel instead of sit. I would later come across an article that explains the meaning behind kneeling for the National Anthem, as follows, “Kneeling is almost always deployed as a sign of deference and respect” (Smith & Keltner, 2017, para. 6). Another quote from the article states, “In some situations, kneeling can be seen as a request for protection – which is completely appropriate in Kaepernick’s case, given the motive of his protest” (Smith & Keltner, 2017, para. 7).

If you get a chance to read this article, you can really get a better understanding about the meaning of kneeling, as it is used to protest. When we think about Kaepernick’s situation, it cost his career; however, since the recent tragic events, it seems he is changing the world now. I totally agree that he is. The freedom to kneel, stand up, speak out, or sit down for a cause is everything for which this country stands. Many Americans fought for these ideals and sacrificed greatly for our country.  

Often, others may disagree with supporting the Black Lives Matter movement for reasons such as the riots, or they may think that everything is already equal. But we can tell that is not true. For example, Breanna Taylor who was an EMT, was shot by police during a no-knock search warrant, while she was sleeping. The main target of the police was to arrest her husband, who fired a gun at the police when they entered the apartment. The police returned fire, and unleashed 20 rounds on the innocent Breanna Taylor.

Based upon the above links that I have shared and statements that I have made, I hope everyone gets a better understanding of the meaning of kneeling for the National Anthem, and how it is used as a protest. Changes need to be made. We cannot say “All lives Matter,” until we can all see that Black Lives Matter.

References:

Miller, K. (2020, June 3). As a video about white privilege goes viral again, experts caution it could actually cause more damage. MSN.com. Retrieved from: https://www.msn.com/en-us/finance/other/as-a-video-about-white-privilege-goes-viral-again-experts-caution-it-could-actually-cause-more-damage/ar-BB14Z7EB

National Basketball Association. (2020, July 30). YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-PDAiIKDPA

Smith, J.A., & Keltner, D. (2017, September 29). The psychology of taking a knee. Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/the-psychology-of-taking-a-knee/

*Editor’s Note: some refer to them as ‘uprisings’ instead of riots.