At this year’s French Open, third-seeded Alexander Zverev won a four-set thriller against sixth-seeded Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7) to advance to the semi-final for the second year in a row. In the post-match interview, Zverev was asked what he said to Alcaraz when they greeted each other at the net after the match concluded.
“I told him at the net, ‘You’re going to win this tournament a lot of times, not just once,’” said Zverev. “I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all.”
Fast-forward to this year’s U.S Open, and Carlos Alcaraz is beginning to do just that.
At the start of the U.S Open, tennis fans from around the world would gather into their designated courts to watch their favorite players do what they do best. On the women’s side, most were there to see Serena Williams’ last rodeo play out. On the men’s side, there was no Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer for the fans to marvel at, but there was one legend that always is the fan favorite every time he steps on the court.
The King of Clay opened as the overwhelming favorite to win his third Grand Slam of the year and 23rd Grand Slam overall. Nadal had not lost a Grand Slam match all year coming into the U.S Open (Nadal withdrew from the Wimbledon semifinals due to injury), and he was on a mission to make 2022 his year.
As the 2nd seed Nadal cruised to the quarterfinals, the 3rd seeded Carlos Alcaraz followed.
Alcaraz beat the people that he should have in the first three rounds (Sebastien Baez, Federico Coria, Jenson Brooksby) decisively in straight sets. The combination of his killer forehands and spacing were too much for his opponents to handle and were stunning to watch. Still, all eyes were on Rafael Nadal’s journey through the tournament.
Then came the Round of 16, where Alcaraz faced 16th seeded Marin Cilic. And to put it lightly, Carlos Alcaraz put on a show for Arthur Ashe Stadium. Cilic and Alcaraz went back and forth hitting each other with long rallies and killer serves. Alcaraz’s game is comparable to the likes of Roger Federer: his serves, backhands, forehands, positioning among other techniques. There’s one aspect of Alcaraz’s game, however, that makes him in a league of his own and such a joy to watch.
During their match, Marin Cilic learned how hard it is to not only get the ball away from Alcaraz, but also how to keep it away from him. Multiple times during the match, Cilic would make an amazing forehand winner only for it to not be a winner at all, as Alcaraz would sprint to the back of the court and hit a forehand winner of his own. Cilic would find out that Alcaraz was simply too much to handle, as Carlos Alcaraz would beat Marin Cilic in a five-set thriller to advance to the quarterfinals. The breakthrough that Alcaraz needed, however, happened before he would even step on the court that day.
Earlier at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the tennis world was shaken up as Rafael Nadal was defeated by the 22nd seeded American Frances Tiafoe, which is seen as the upset of the year. The day before, the top seed Daniil Medvedev was handled by the controversial Nick Kyrgios.
With the top two seeds out of the way, all eyes were now on the highest seed remaining: Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard would decisively prove, however, that he could handle the bright lights.
With the plays and overwhelming efforts that were present in his Round of 16 match (like this sensational behind the back shot), he would come back from a 2-1 set hole to defeat John Sinner 6-3, 6-7 (9), 6-7 (7), 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the U.S Open Semifinals. His opponent in the semifinals would end up being one of the most anticipated matches on the tournament.
Alcaraz’s opponent: Frances Tiafoe, the man who ended Rafael Nadal’s U.S Open run.
Tiafoe was making history himself, becoming the first African American since Arthur Ashe to make the U.S Open semifinals, and he had no plans to make his match with Alcaraz his last of the tournament. Alcaraz, however, had other ideas.
Frances Tiafoe experienced what Alcaraz’s prior opponents did: his relentless drive and effort. Alcaraz pulled rabbits out of his hat all match, scoring points that seemed impossible, bringing the Arthur Ashe crowd to its feet to the point where they could barely sit down. Alcaraz would beat Tiafoe 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-3 to make the U.S Open final.
Before the tournament, people already had their favorites coming into the tournament. Going into the final, everyone had become a Carlos Alcaraz fan.
Alcaraz would defeat 5th seeded Casper Ruud in the U.S Open final 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 to win his first Grand Slam title. The ovation Alcaraz received after the match point was astounding. The crowd there were amazed by his near perfect U.S Open Tournament, the plays he made and most importantly: the effort he put in.
The victory makes Alcaraz the youngest No.1 in ATP history. At 19, he is like Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer, who won their first major at 19, 20, and 21, respectively. Alcaraz is nowhere close to finished, based on his interview after his U.S Open win.
“Right now, I’m enjoying the moment. I’m enjoying having the trophy in my hands,” said Alcaraz. “Of course, I’m hungry for more. I want to be at the top for many, many weeks. I hope many years.”
There have been comparisons with Alcaraz to the big three (Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic) with how his career has started, but there is one thing that stands out compared to everyone else.
Carlos Alcaraz has the potential to be the greatest tennis player to ever hold a racquet. It is too early to tell, admittedly, because he is only 19. However, if there is one thing that should be taken from this article, its that Carlos Alcaraz will be a name that will be known for years to come.
Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interest but is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.
In the world of baseball, the Most Valuable Player award is one of if not the most sought-after award. It goes to the player who has the best numbers on the field in each respective league. There have been many debates in the past decade over if the award should include pitchers as there is already an award for the best pitcher in each respective league, that being the Cy Young award.
But in recent years there has been a phenom who has thrown a wrench into baseball tradition and how we think of its players. Shohei Ohtani is a twenty-eight-year-old who plays for The Los Angeles Angels. What separates Ohtani from literally EVERY other player in the MLB is the fact that he is an elite power hitter who is in the top five in home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. He is also an elite starting pitcher who is in the top five in ERA and strikeouts.
Enter Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge, who is currently on pace to break the all-time Yankee single season home run record. He also has a current slash line of .307/.410/.677 which are unreal numbers to have along with fifty plus home runs. Judge is having a career year and one that in any other time period would all but guarantee him a unanimous MVP award. But is he the most valuable?
I think that if we are looking at players strictly on stats for MVP voting you cannot give the award to anyone but Ohtani. Sure, Judge is having a massive year offensively and putting up numbers we haven’t seen since the days of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. But right now, Ohtani has scored 80 runs on offense and has only given up 40 earned runs as a pitcher. With Ohtani, you’re not only getting a far above average starting pitcher, but a starting pitcher who will more than cover the runs they give up at the plate!
In the 2021 season when Ohtani won his first MVP award, he negated the earned runs he gave up just with his home run count alone. He had insanely tough competition in the MVP race that year too as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was in major contention to win the first triple crown in MLB since 2012. But Ohtani still won unanimously.
Shohei Ohtani is a generational talent that we may never see again. It’s unfortunate for anyone else in the American League that puts up good numbers, but Shohei is, by far, the Most Valuable Player in all of Major League Baseball and will continue to be until he chooses not to.
Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.
September 10, 2022
It was yet another win for Africa on September 9th, 2022, when Ons Jabeur booked a US Open final spot, becoming the first African Woman since 1968 to achieve such a feat in the professional era. It’s been a terrific 2022 for the Tunisian, making consecutive Grand Slam finals, but many people are unaware of how the journey started, thanks largely to the scant media coverage she has received. It’s been 17 years of constant hard work, perseverance, and the desire and will to get to the top.
Born in Ksar Hellal, Tunisia, Ons started playing tennis at the age of three and played on the ITF Circuit in 2007. Two years later, in 2009, she made her first junior Grand Slam debut at the US Open but couldn’t get past Britain’s Laura Robson in the first round. She eventually won the Junior Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2011 and became the first North African Woman to win a Grand Slam tournament at the junior level. Then came 2012; at 17, she was handed a wildcard at the Premier 5 Qatar Open in February, where she made her WTA main-draw debut but lost in three sets to No. 103 Virginie Razzano from France.
Considering her struggles at WTA Events at a senior level, it hasn’t been all rosy for Ons. She did qualify for two Grand Slam main draws at the 2014 US Open and 2015 Australian Open but failed to live up to the billing, losing her opening matches at both tournaments. For the first time in 2017, she participated in all four Grand Slam singles events but couldn’t win any of the titles. Her big break came at the French Open, where she won two main draw matches and cemented her place in the top 100 for the rest of the year. In 2017, she competed at all Grand Slam tournaments for the first time in her WTA Career, but she struggled.
A determined Ons kept working hard and digging deep to get to the top, which eventually paid off in 2021 when she won her first WTA Title at the 2021 Birmingham Classic, defeating the Russian Daria Kasatkina in the final. It is also worth mentioning that she got to the Wimbledon championships’ quarterfinals in 2021.
2022 started with the Tunisian playing at the Sydney International where she got knocked out in the quarterfinals. She withdrew from the Australian Open after picking up an injury at the Sydney International. Jabeur lost in the second round of Indian Wells, but got to the fourth round of the Miami Open, reached the final of the Charleston Open, and went on to win the Madrid Open, making her the first African player to win a WTA 1000 title. Then came the Italian Open, where she had a brilliant run. Still, she wasn’t good enough to win it all as she fell to Iga Świątek in the Final; despite losing the Italian Open final, she reached a career-high world No. 6 in May.
The French Open came with many expectations, but she fell out in the first round against Poland’s Magda Linette but made a career-high ranking of world No. 4 in June at the end of the tournament. Wimbledon saw a different Jabeur who went all the way to the final, defeating Mirjam Björklund, Katarzyna Kawa, Diane Parry, and Elise Mertens in the process. The Wimbledon Final came, which was her first Grand Slam final appearance, making her the first African Woman to reach a Grand Slam Singles Final in the Open Era. Sadly, she couldn’t deliver at the biggest stage, losing to Elena Rybakina in three sets which was a bitter pill to swallow as an African, since tennis experts had picked her to win.
Ons Jabeur vs Iga Świątek: A revenge mission?
September 10th, 2022, will be a day to remember for many. Africans and Arabians who are all looking forward with high expectations. Ons Jabeur will be in action, participating in her second Grand Slam Final barely two months after her first final, which she lost to Rybakina. She faces a daunting task against Świątek, who is yet to lose a Grand Slam final. The Polish player has won in both Grand Slam finals she’s played (French Open 2019 & 2022).
Ons Jabeur is one match away from becoming the first African and Arab Woman to win a significant title, and she can achieve this at the 142nd edition of the US Open. To this point, her accomplishments have been overshadowed by the massive coverage of Serena Williams’ retirement and excitement about rising US stars Francis Tiafoe and Coco Gauff.
The big question now is, Can She win? And if she does, will she gain the accolades deserving of a first-time grand slam winner and the first African-Arab Woman to do so?
Writers for Fall 2022 Maxwell Media Watch had their first meeting on Thursday, September 8, 2022 and have already begun working on their first entries. This semester’s writers include a grad student whose media name is Sarafina Napoleon, who penned the first entry about today’s U.S. Open Women’s Singles Final featuring the first African-Arab woman to advance to the U.S. Open final. Forthcoming entries will discuss: Francis Tiafoe becoming the first Black male advancing to the U.S. Open semifinals since Arthur Ashe; WNBA player Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia; WNBA player Sue Bird’s retirement; the rebuild of MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates; and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani’s case to be named MVP.
Undergraduate and graduate students in Sport Management, Sport Administration, Journalism and Communication are welcome to attend Maxwell Media Watch meetings and to write entries that critique media coverage of sports. For more information, please contact Pershelle Rohrer, senior contributor (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Dr. Nancy Spencer, faculty advisor (email@example.com).
Griffin is a fourth-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.
Over a month ago, on August 29th, 2021, a high school football game was aired on ESPN. One team, IMG Academy, has garnered public attention for years. The pre-college prep school has established itself as one of the top high school football programs in the nation and is the defending High School National Champion. It is also a proven player developing team, with its website prominently displaying the 12 IMG alumni on NFL rosters, including Browns defensive backs Grant Delpit and Greg Newsome II as well as Denver Broncos receiver KJ Hamler and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco.
On the other side of this nationally televised Sunday night matchup is what can be seen as the exact opposite of IMG: the unknown Bishop Sycamore high school in Columbus, Ohio. Up until this moment, most viewers hadn’t heard of the Ohio “school,” but soon it would become a firestorm.
IMG would handily defeat Bishop Sycamore 58-0. IMG was not affected by the win, but Bishop Sycamore was. Bishop Sycamore became a meme.
The story of Bishop Sycamore starts before that Sunday matchup on ESPN in Bradenton, Florida. Two days before, in fact. On Friday, August 27th, like many Ohio high schools, Bishop Sycamore played its second game of the season against the Sto-Rox Vikings of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. In that game, Sto-Rox would defeat Bishop Sycamore 19-7.
That’s right, you read that correctly. Bishop Sycamore played two games in a weekend in two different states. But that wasn’t the main piece of the scandal. The fact that Bishop Sycamore, a school that doesn’t exist, made its way onto ESPN’s national coverage is.
In the weeks following Bishop Sycamore’s ill fated national TV matchup against IMG, people would start digging into the school’s history. They quickly learned that the school was not a school, and in fact, started years prior under a different name. The conditions of players in the program became public. Somehow, Bishop Sycamore booked hotel rooms under the names of the players with no intention of paying for the rooms, had players dining and dashing for food on the road and so much worse. But still, that’s not the story we’re talking about today. If you want to learn more about the scandal’s history, prominent YouTuber FlemLo Raps has a great video on the topic.
So, that brings us to the crux of the issue: How did Bishop Sycamore get on ESPN? And how did they get on IMG’s schedule?
To start, the idea of Bishop Sycamore playing IMG and Sto-Rox across the country in a span of 48 hours wasn’t a surprise. According to Pittsburgh-area TribLive, Sto-Rox head coach LaRoi Johnson knew about the arrangement going into their game. Johnson, however, was told it was two separate teams. High school varsity would be travelling to Pennsylvania to face Sto-Rox, while the post-graduate prep team would stay in Ohio to play IMG. That wasn’t the case.
After the game against Sto-Rox, Bishop Sycamore coach Roy Johnson doubled down on LaRoi Johnson’s beliefs, stating “We have a national team that will play on Sunday,” according to the TribLive.
Then, on Sunday night in primetime on ESPN, the fraud became apparent. Midway through the second quarter of an already bad 30-0 drubbing at the hands of IMG, the ESPN broadcast crew seemed to come clean. The broadcasters stated, “Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on the roster, and to be frank, a lot of that, we could not verify … From what we’ve seen so far, this is not a fair fight, and there’s got to be a point where you’re worried about health and safety.”
Immediately after the game, ESPN released a statement on the airing of the game: “We regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling. They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening in the future.”
Ben Koo from Awful Announcing, a media critique site, reached out to Paragon president Rashid Ghazi about the airing of Bishop Sycamore vs. IMG on national television. According to Koo, Ghazi said that “they [Paragon] would have cancelled the game” if they knew that Bishop Sycamore was playing the same players in both games. While that sounds bad, reality was much worse: many of Bishop Sycamore’s players played both-ways in both games.
Koo went on to report that Bishop Sycamore “had mismatched helmets and potentially not enough helmets for the entire team… despite the roster being reported to be very small: just 30-35 players.” For reference, the Mansfield News Journal reported that in 2020, the Ohio High School Athletic Association limited the number of football players that can dress for a game to 60. In other words, nearly double the number of players that Bishop Sycamore had listed on their roster are allowed to dress to play in an Ohio high school football game.
As for IMG, this isn’t the first time that the two schools have faced off. Last season, on October 16, Bishop Sycamore travelled down to Bradenton to face IMG. Bishop Sycamore was trounced, 56-6. After that, why was IMG so willing to schedule Bishop Sycamore again?
FlemLo Raps, the YouTuber mentioned earlier who focuses on storytelling and investigative pieces, talked to Ty Arlesit, an Ohio native, about Bishop Sycamore’s scheduling. Arlesit pointed to conference independent teams that are looking for teams to play to fill their 10 game schedule. According to IMG’s MaxPreps, they do not belong to a conference, so this could be a reason for the scheduling. Arlesit went on to say that “teams either find a bad team similar to their size … or face a smaller school that they know will give them points that go towards their Harbin rankings that determine their playoff seeding.” Since IMG is contending for a national title, making the playoffs is crucial. Similar to how Minnesota or other Big Ten schools would schedule a MAC school like Bowling Green for some free wins that the playoff committee would like, IMG wants to boost their resume. All in all, on IMG’s side, it’s very reasonable.
For ESPN, though, there are still questions that need to be answered. Why did no one in the network or with Paragon take the simple step to verify their roster? Since announcers mentioned during the game that hunting down information on the school was difficult and ESPN couldn’t verify the quality of prospects on Bishop Sycamore, then they knew this was a problem. In addition, a simple MaxPreps or Google search would show that Bishop Sycamore was playing Sto-Rox two days before their showcase at the Pro Football Hall of Fame against IMG. Still, the game was permitted.
The sheer lack of accountability on ESPN and Paragon’s side makes this scandal so puzzling. While most of the public ire and jokes fall on Bishop Sycamore and now-fired head coach Roy Johnson, much more of that deserves to be directed towards ESPN. How did nobody in two major organizations do simple fact checking? This is one of the main pillars of journalistic integrity, yet nobody thought to follow up? And, even when surface-level research is done before kickoff and there’s little to no information, no alarm bells sound? ESPN needs to do better. This kind of shoddy reporting cannot stand. Those Bishop Sycamore players could very easily have been injured, and that falls just as much on ESPN as it does on Bishop Sycamore “leadership.”
Compiled by Breven Miller, Griffin Olah, Pershelle Rohrer and Dr. Nancy Spencer, with contributions by Malik Devese
At the beginning of the NFL season, there were concerns about “whether a close-contact sport like football, with 22 players on the field and dozens more on the sidelines along with coaches and trainers, could avoid a coronavirus outbreak” (Belson, 2020, para. 1). As of mid-November, there was no spread on the field although players tested positive for contacts that occurred off the field (at restaurants, via car rides and/or through people not associated with football such as nannies) (Belson, 2020). The NFL’s approach to dealing with Covid differed greatly from those taken by other professional sports leagues that resumed earlier in the summer (e.g., the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and NHL).
The first professional league to return was the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) which “completed a virus-free month-long tournament inside a Utah bubble” (Keh, 2020, para. 3). Major League Soccer (MLS) played in an enclosed environment in Florida, but initially lost two teams due to positive tests (Keh, 2020). The NBA and WNBA both completed successful seasons in a bubble at Walt Disney World where champions were crowned in both leagues – the L.A. Lakers in the NBA and the Seattle Storm in the WNBA. Meanwhile, the NHL returned to play in two different bubbles in Canada, with the Tampa Bay Lightning capturing the 2020 Stanley Cup (Keh, 2020). Since logistics prevented Major League Baseball from playing in a bubble, teams met at a limited number of ballparks and managed to complete an abbreviated season with the L.A. Dodgers winning the World Series.
Although the NFL had the most time to prepare for its season, they seemed to squander that time by delaying their implementation of safety protocols that other leagues had put in place. As Kevin Clark tweeted, “The NFL was the only pro league with the luxury of time and they wasted it” (“How the NFL’s,” 2020, para. 6). Unlike the NBA, NHL and MLB, which “all had their protocols approved a week before camps opened,” the NFL did not approve their protocols until the day some players began to report (“How the NFL’s,” 2020, para. 8).
ESPN’s Dan Graziano (2020) reported that until mid-November, 28 of 32 teams operated under strict protocols due to a member of the organization or a member of a recent opponent testing positive for COVID-19. Sixteen teams operated under intensive protocols multiple times. For those teams, there was a greater than 50 percent reduction in close contacts, helping reduce spread and increase contact tracing (Graziano, 2020). Yet, several teams received hefty fines for violating protocols. The Raiders were fined $500,000 when 10 players attended a large gathering without masks and the Titans were fined $350,000 for their lax handling of enforcement (Belson, 2020).
While the NFL had originally put guidelines in place, they recently instituted more intensive protocols due to the rising spread of COVID-19 around the country (Graziano, 2020). Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the league emphasizing the importance of flexibility throughout the season. As Goodell wrote, “it has been said many times that our 2020 season cannot be ‘normal’ because nothing about this year is normal. Flexibility and adaptability have been critical to our success to date and we must continue with that approach” (Graziano, 2020, para. 3).
On November 17, the Dallas Cowboys established a bubble for all staff that have direct contact with the players at the Omni Hotel attached to Cowboys headquarters in Frisco, Texas (Walker, 2020). The decision came out of the team’s game with the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, where tight end Vance McDonald played before later receiving a positive test. In addition to that, Andy Dalton and Tyrone Crawford were added to the COVID-19 list recently after being exposed to the illness, which is the team’s first contact with the disease since star tailback Ezekiel Elliot tested positive during training camp (Walker, 2020). Jerry Jones said that the team is creating a bubble out of caution as to not throw the rest of the league’s schedule off more than it already has (Walker, 2020). There are questions about the team’s commitment to lowering COVID-19 numbers, however, since Jones followed that up with bragging about attendance numbers. He did point out the usage of pods and limited attendance as keys to his “continued aggressive approach” (Walker, 2020, para. 9).
Despite efforts to curtail the spread, the NFL lost “its marquee matchup on Thanksgiving” when the game between the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the 6-4 Baltimore Ravens was postponed until Sunday (Kim & Lev, 2020, para. 9). The Monday before they were to play, the Ravens had announced that “multiple members of the organization tested positive for coronavirus” and those who tested positive were in self-quarantine as the team began contact tracing (Kim & Lev, 2020, para. 4). The postponement marked the second time the Steelers had to adjust their schedule since their game against the Tennessee Titans also had to be postponed due to players testing positive. The Steelers’ receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster expressed his frustration in the following tweet:
Two days later, the Steelers learned of yet another postponement as their game was moved back to 8 p.m. (ET) Tuesday, provided that no more Ravens players tested positive (Bumbaca & Jones, 2020). In addition to the postponement, “the Ravens disciplined strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders for failing to report coronavirus symptoms and not consistently wearing his mask or tracking device while inside the facility” (Bumbaca & Jones, 2020, para. 4). So much for not having spread within teams’ facilities!
On Saturday, November 28, CNN medical expert Abdul el Sayed questioned the wisdom of the NFL’s decision to continue scheduling NFL games when so many players had tested positive. Meanwhile, nurses around the country have been questioning why thousands of athletes are able to get tested while they cannot (Babb, 2020). As the NFL season has progressed, one nurse observed the hypocrisy of our nation’s priorities at a time when she and other front-line workers (supposedly, the ‘essential workers’ among us) have not been tested.
At a time when so many have lamented the growing political chasm between the right and the left, perhaps the real divide is between the ‘haves’ (i.e., professional and college athletes) and the ‘have-nots’ (the essential workers who selflessly serve our nation). During the week from November 8-14, “the NFL administered 43,148 tests to 7,856 players, coaches and employees” while “major college programs supply dozens of tests each day” (Babb, 2020, para. 5). Yet, there are still far too many weary health care workers who have been denied access to testing. What does that tell us about our priorities as a nation?
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.
Milwaukee Bucks players refused to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic on August 26 in response to the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23. Their actions led to widespread boycotts throughout the NBA and across the sports world.
Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by a police officer while entering his vehicle, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down (Cohen, 2020). Three of Blake’s six children were inside the vehicle at the time of the shooting. Videos of the shooting quickly went viral on social media, and athletes quickly used their platforms to speak out against racial injustice.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard and National Basketball Players’ Association President Chris Paul sent a message of support to Blake and his family following the Thunder’s Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets, encouraging people to register to vote (Cohen, 2020). Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James asked, “Why does it always have to get to the point where we see the guns firing?” (“Inside the hectic,” 2020, para. 3). Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, the son of a police officer, said, “We keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back” (para. 5).
Bringing attention to social injustice and police brutality in America has been the ultimate goal for NBA players in the bubble since the killing of George Floyd in May. The shooting of Blake reawakened the players’ anger, and teams began to consider boycotting their playoff games in order to raise awareness. The Toronto Raptors were the first to discuss a boycott, considering skipping the opening game of their second-round series against the Boston Celtics scheduled for August 27 (Cohen, 2020).
The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to boycott their game on August 26, participating in pregame warm-ups and media sessions before ultimately deciding not to play shortly before tipoff. Instead, the team participated in a Zoom call with Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes and attorney general Josh Kaul (“Inside the hectic,” 2020). Milwaukee is about 40 miles north of Kenosha, where Jacob Blake was shot.
Barnes said, “They just wanted to know what they could do. I mean, they were very interested in a call to action. They wanted something tangible that they could do in the short and long term. They wanted the walkout to be Step 1” (“Inside the hectic, 2020, para. 19).
The Bucks emerged from the locker room after over three hours, speaking to the media about their decision not to play. The Rockets and Thunder planned to follow the Bucks’ lead by boycotting their game, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers discussed doing the same. The NBA ultimately postponed all playoff games for that evening and the following day (Owens, 2020).
A quote from an ESPN article reflects on the events of the day: “The Bucks didn’t expect to be the thread that caused the NBA to unravel, one player said. But that thread had been fraying for awhile” (“Inside the hectic, 2020, paras. 10-11).
The NBA boycott also led to postponements of matches in the WNBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, and even tennis (“Inside the hectic,” 2020).
NBA analyst Kenny Smith walked off the set of Inside the NBA in response to the boycott, saying, “And for me . . . as a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight” (McCarriston, 2020, para. 15). Eleven-time NBA champion and civil rights activist Bill Russell praised Smith’s actions. “I am so proud of you. Keep getting in good trouble,” he said (Bieler, 2020, para. 24).
Many athletes expressed their support for the boycott on Twitter, including San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.
CBS Sports writer Shanna McCarriston (2020) recognized that the statement was four years to the day from Colin Kaepernick’s first national anthem demonstration against police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since January 1, 2017, just over five months after he began protesting (Guerrero, 2020).
NPR’s Scott Simon recognized how far protests in sports have come since then. “This week really seemed to be a breaking point. And how did we get from Colin Kaepernick being considered an outcast not long ago to major league sports joining national campaigns of protest?” (Goldman, 2020, para. 10).
Players from all 13 teams remaining in Orlando’s NBA bubble met in the evening on August 26 to determine whether or not to continue the season. Before the NBA restart, Avery Bradley and Kyrie Irving argued for ending the season in order to prevent distraction from social justice issues following the death of George Floyd (“Inside the hectic,” 2020). The Lakers and Clippers voted to end the season, but the other 11 teams decided to continue and use their platforms in the bubble to promote racial equality.
Former University of Maryland basketball star and Harvard Law School graduate Len Elmore recognized the tangible change that the players have the opportunity to create. “Now they have started to take some action, recognizing the frustration that every person of color should be experiencing and certainly that they are experiencing. It’s a watershed moment,” Elmore said on Glenn Clark Radio (Gold, 2020, para. 3). He wished the boycott would have lasted longer due to his belief that the initial restart distracted from the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. He said, “I would like to see the thing last a lot longer. I thought the resumption of play would be a distraction and it wouldn’t change anything and we are kind of seeing that play out now” (para. 15).
Bucks guard George Hill shared Elmore’s concerns. On August 24, he said, “I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are” (Owens, 2020, para. 12).
NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman (2020) pointed out that the players ended their strike before they met with the owners about social justice issues, writing “Obviously, players lost leverage with that order of events. But owners have shown they’re at least willing to do what’s necessary to present the league as aligned with social justice, and the strike necessitated a greater showing” (para. 1).
Despite losing some of that leverage, the NBA and NBPA released a joint statement announcing tangible actions that will be enacted in order to support the movement. They established a social justice coalition to address issues such as voting, civic engagement, and police and criminal justice reform. NBA arenas will be used as voting locations for the 2020 general election. Lastly, the league will raise awareness for voting and civic engagement through advertisements for the remainder of the NBA playoffs (Feldman, 2020).
Chris Sheridan (2020) wrote that, “NBA players agreed to resume their season in a bubble in part because they believed their platform to push for social change could best be achieved through having their message seen and heard on every game telecast” (para. 21). They are finding concrete ways to take action as a result of the boycott, especially by encouraging people to vote. LeBron James established his More Than a Vote initiative in June to help fight voter suppression, and the NBA and NBPA agreement helps create “a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID” (Feldman, 2020, para. 7).
The NBA players accomplished their overall goal: they brought attention to another instance of police brutality and helped make Jacob Blake a household name. On August 27, Andy Nesbitt (2020) wrote, “They are keeping Jacob Blake’s name at the top of all conversations and they are doing their part to bring justice for a man who was shot seven times in the back” (para. 8). The boycott reminded fans of the injustices that were brought to the forefront of American life in May when Floyd was killed and showed the importance of the messages written on the players’ jerseys. The players look to continue using their platforms to promote racial equality and the importance of voting in November.
Mathieu_Era. (2020, August 26). FED UP. Ain’t enough money in world to keep overlooking true issues that effect the mind body & soul of what we do. We cannot be happy for self when our communities are suffering & innocent folk are dying.. since George Floyd, there have been at least 20 other police shootings. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Mathieu_Era/status/1298719311066853376?s=20
RealBillRussell. (2020, August 26). I’m moved by all the @NBA players for standing up for what is right. To my man @TheJetOnTNT I would like to say Thank you for what you did to show your support for the players. I am so proud of you. Keep getting in good trouble. @NBAonTNT @ESPNNBA @espn #NBAPlayoffs [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell/status/1298762120394182657?s=20
SportsCenter. (2020, August 26). “As a black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight.” Kenny Smith walked off the set of Inside the NBA in solidarity with the players’ boycott. [Tweet].Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1298752425608785927?s=20
SportsCenter. (2020, August 26). “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.” Sterling Brown and George Hill read a prepared statement from the Milwaukee Bucks players. (via @malika_andrews).
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.
Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace has been thrust into the national spotlight over the last month after becoming the face of NASCAR’s push for racial equality. In recent weeks, he has successfully called for the ban of Confederate flags at racetracks, supported the Black Lives Matter movement with a shirt and paint scheme dedicated to the cause, and received a powerful display of support from his fellow drivers after an alleged noose was discovered in his garage stall at Talladega on June 21. He also received widespread support following criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Wallace, NASCAR’s only current Black driver, was inspired to speak up after reading about potential new fans being turned off by the display of the Confederate flag at racetracks. According to James Doubek (2020), the tipping point for Wallace was the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Georgia man who was fatally shot while jogging in February.
Wallace told NPR on June 12, “It shook me to the core to a point where it kind of flipped a light switch inside of me” (Doubek, 2020, para. 7).
NASCAR has a long history involving the Confederate flag. A sport with deep Southern roots, NASCAR was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1948, and the Cup Series began in 1949 (Kelly, 2020). Most races were in the South in the sport’s early days. Drivers had the Confederate flag displayed on their cars from the beginning. Frank “Rebel” Mundy had the flag painted on the side of his Hudson Hornet in the early 1950s, according to NASCAR historian Buz McKim (Kelly, 2020). Darlington Raceway had a tradition involving “Johnny Reb” that began in the track’s early days. Godwin Kelly (2020) writes, “One of Darlington’s early traditions was ‘Johnny Reb,’ who was a man dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform and carrying a Confederate flag on a pole. The race winner would wait for ‘Johnny Reb’ to get on the hood of his car then head to Victory Lane. The character would proudly wave the flag during the short ride” (paras. 11-12). The “Johnny Reb” tradition was dropped before the 1980s.
NASCAR began to push back against Confederate traditions in the 1980s. Henley Gray was forced to paint over the roof of his car, which was decorated with a Confederate flag, because “NASCAR would not let him run with it,” according to McKim (Kelly, 2020, para. 18). Following the Charleston, S.C. church shooting that claimed the lives of nine Black churchgoers in 2015, the sport asked fans to stop bringing the Confederate flag to races. Widely circulated photos of the shooter posing with the flag led to NASCAR issuing this request, according to Maria Cramer (2020).
Despite NASCAR’s request, fans continued to bring Confederate flags to the racetrack. During the 2015 Fourth of July race weekend, Daytona International Speedway started a swap program, allowing fans to trade in their Confederate flags for American flags (Kelly, 2020). Juliet Macur (2020) writes, “Few fans took them up on the offer, and NASCAR continued struggling to balance a new demographic of fans beyond the white and conservative Southern ones that helped NASCAR grow into a powerhouse industry in the early to mid-2000s” (para. 10).
Following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May, the Black Lives Matter movement took off nationwide. BBC News writes, “The movement has sparked a campaign to remove symbols associated with slavery, imperialism and the Confederacy” (“Bubba Wallace: Nascar,” 2020, para. 6). Bubba Wallace called for an outright ban of the flag at racetracks on June 8, saying that the fans should feel comfortable coming to races.
Wallace told CNN’s Don Lemon, “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them” (Cramer, 2020, para. 4).
NASCAR banned the flag from its events and properties on June 10. In part, the statement says, “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment” (“Bubba Wallace praises,” 2020, para. 3).
Wallace responded, saying, “Props to NASCAR and everybody involved. It creates doors and allows the community to come together as one” (“Bubba Wallace praises,” 2020, para. 4).
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson also praised the move, stating that they belong in the history books instead of the racetrack. “I know some want to make it political. In all these injustices and inequalities that exist, to me it’s kind of simple if we start with being kind first . . . I think they have a place in history, and we need to keep them in the history books and not have them flying in the sky at the racetracks,” he said (“Bubba Wallace praises,” 2020, paras. 11-13).
Kyle Petty, longtime racer and son of the seven-time champion Richard Petty called it “a huge moment” (Macur, 2020, para. 12), saying on NBCSN’s ‘NASCAR America’, “As we look at the sport and how the sport has grown, we were way behind the curve” (para. 13).
Some fans and drivers were upset with the decision, citing the flag’s ties to racing culture. Ray Ciccarelli, who drives part-time in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, voiced his intention to leave the sport after this season in a Facebook post following NASCAR’s decision (Fernandez, 2020). During the race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, fans drove by the track with Confederate flags in reaction to its ban from NASCAR facilities, and a plane flew a banner of the flag with the words “Defund NASCAR” (Fryer, 2020).
Wallace wore a shirt that said “I can’t breathe,” the plea spoken repeatedly by George Floyd as a police officer knelt on his neck, followed by the words “Black Lives Matter” ahead of the June 7 race at Atlanta (Doubek, 2020). He wore the same shirt at Martinsville on June 10, this time sporting a car with a special Black Lives Matter paint scheme on it (Gartland, 2020). The car had #BlackLivesMatter over the rear wheel, Black and white hands interlocking on the hood, the words “Compassion, Love, Understanding” on the back bumper and hood, and a peace sign decorated with different colored hands underneath the Black Lives Matter hashtag (Gartland, 2020).
In a video posted to the Twitter page of Wallace’s racing team, Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace said, “We knew that the Martinsville race was open—we did not sell a sponsorship for that—and it sparked an idea of, why not run a blackout car? Our team brought that idea to me and I jumped all over it. … Why not dive in straight to the root and put #BlackLivesMatter on the car?” (Gartland, 2020, para. 4).
Before the Martinsville race, Wallace spoke about what Black Lives Matter means to him. “I haven’t really slept much thinking about this race — everything that’s going into it and everything going on in the world. Trying to race to change the world here. It’s not that we’re saying no other lives matter. We’re trying to say that black lives matter, too,” he said (“Bubba Wallace praises,” 2020, para. 2).
Many athletes, including LeBron James, Alvin Kamara, and Bernard Pollard Jr, expressed their support for Wallace. Kamara attended his first NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on June 14, wearing a Bubba Wallace shirt and hat. Sports Illustrated writer Dan Gartland wrote, “What makes Wallace’s statement especially powerful is that it’s not the safe thing to do” (Gartland, 2020, para. 5).
Gartland’s sentiment proved to be a real concern just a week later. On June 21, an alleged noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (Bromberg, 2020). The noose was discovered by one of Wallace’s crew members and reported to NASCAR. NASCAR President Steve Phelps informed Wallace about the noose and issued an FBI investigation (Fryer, 2020). Phelps said that the individual who left the noose “will be banned from this sport for life” (para. 16).
Wallace received widespread support from current and former drivers, as well as other athletes, politicians, and sports analysts. He also released a statement following the discovery.
The June 21 race was postponed until the next day due to rain, leading to a powerful display of unity from NASCAR as Wallace’s fellow drivers and their pit crews pushed his car to the front of the starting grid before the race. Joined by NASCAR legend Richard Petty, they stood with Wallace during the pre-race prayer and national anthem (Bromberg, 2020) while Brad Keselowski held the American flag during the display (Fryer, 2020). Wallace then took a selfie with everyone behind his car (Bromberg, 2020).
According to Wallace, Jimmie Johnson came up with the idea to stand with him for the anthem, and Kevin Harvick suggested pushing his car down pit road (Fryer, 2020). The hashtag #IStandWithBubba was also painted in white on the infield grass (“NASCAR stands with,” 2020).
NASCAR (2020) tweeted a video of the display using the same hashtag and the word, “Together.”
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell (2020) reacted to the display, saying, “No words.”
Wallace had a chance to race for the win, even leading for a time with under 30 laps to go, but a fuel shortage forced him to take a late pit stop. He received a push toward pit road from Corey LaJoie after running out of fuel, allowing him to ultimately finish 14th (“NASCAR stands with,” 2020).
Wallace celebrated with a group of first-time fans, many of them wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, after the race (Fryer, 2020). While speaking to the media he apologized for not wearing a mask, explaining that he wanted to show the person who left the noose in his garage that “you are not going to take away my smile” (para. 10).
The FBI released the results of their investigation into the noose on June 23, determining that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that the garage door pull fashioned like a noose had been in the garage since at least October 2019 (“FBI says rope, 2020). The results produced a variety of reactions. NASCAR released a statement, expressing relief that there “was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba” (para. 3), but Wallace received backlash from individuals who felt that he or his team planted the noose themselves (Rosenblatt, 2020).
In a June 24 interview with Craig Melvin on TODAY, Wallace said, “I was relieved just like many others to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me. But it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try and debunk you and that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now” (Rosenblatt, 2020, para. 2).
NASCAR released an image of the noose on June 25 following an internal investigation by the organization. Steve Phelps defended NASCAR’s reaction while admitting that he could have worded his initial statement better. “Upon learning of seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. … In hindsight, we should have — I should have — used the word ‘alleged’ in our statement. … As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba. With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family — our NASCAR family — because they are part of the NASCAR family too. We were proud to see so many stand up for what’s right,” he said (“NASCAR releases image,” 2020, para. 4-5).
NASCAR doesn’t typically receive much coverage on social media from accounts such as ESPN, but the sport received lots of attention throughout the investigation. ESPN’s Instagram account (2020) posted about NASCAR nine times between the flying of the Confederate flag over Talladega on June 21 and the release of the noose photo on June 25. Bleacher Report (2020) added twelve NASCAR-related posts between June 21 and June 26, and Sports Illustrated (2020) covered support for Wallace and the outcome of the FBI investigation with four posts between June 22 and June 23.
Media coverage of Bubba Wallace and NASCAR expanded further on July 6 after U.S. President Donald Trump (2020) called out Wallace on Twitter, saying that he should apologize for the “hoax” while criticizing NASCAR’s ratings following the Confederate flag ban, calling them the “lowest ratings EVER.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president. “What the president is making is a broader point that this rush to judgment, before the facts are out, is not acceptable,” she told Fox News’ Sandra Smith on July 6 (Owens, 2020, para. 5). McEnany then compared Wallace’s situation to that of Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself in 2019 (Pereira, 2020). Jason Owens (2020) emphasizes the implications of this comparison, writing that “McEnany’s Smollett comparison implies that Wallace and his team orchestrated the incident as a hate crime” (para. 9). Steve Phelps has emphasized from the beginning that Wallace’s team had nothing to do with the noose. “I want to be clear about the 43 team: The 43 team had nothing to do with this” (“FBI says rope, 2020, para. 16), Phelps said on June 23.
The media came to the defense of Wallace and NASCAR after Trump’s claims. In response to the president’s claim that the noose was a hoax, Daniel Roberts (2020) responded, “There was no ‘hoax’—the sport merely responded to what looked at first like a hate crime—and Wallace never saw or reported the noose; it was found and reported by a member of his team” (para. 2). Trump’s claim that NASCAR’s ratings are plummeting is also false. According to Michael Mulvihill, the sport’s ratings on Fox networks are up 8 percent since its return from a shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic (“President Donald Trump,” 2020). Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis, broadcast on NBC, had the largest viewership for an Xfinity race at that location since 2017 with nearly 1.7 million viewers (Pereira, 2020). The rating for Sunday’s Cup Series race was up 46 percent from last year’s race at Indianapolis (McCarriston, 2020).
Wallace responded to the tweet with a message “To the next generation and little ones following my foot steps” (Pereira, 2020, para. 8).
“You will always have people testing you. Seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal. I encourage you to keep your head held high and walk proudly on the path you have chosen . . . Always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS… Love wins,” Wallace (2020) wrote on his Twitter page.
Audio company Beats by Dre announced a personal partnership with Wallace that night, according to NASCAR (“Bubba Wallace lands,” 2020). “We weren’t going to announce this until later this week, but hate cannot win the day. No one should ever be asked to apologize for standing up for what’s right — we are proud to welcome Bubba Wallace to the Beats by Dr. Dre family,” the company wrote on Twitter announcing the partnership (Beats by Dre, 2020).
Fellow Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick responded to Trump in a since-deleted tweet, saying, “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support” (“President Donald Trump,” 2020, para. 5).
Kevin Harvick also backed up Wallace on Golic and Wingo (2020), saying that “a misinformed tweet is not gonna change the unity and the direction of our sport and our garage, and the way that we feel about each other.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) agreed that Wallace had nothing to apologize for (Carney, 2020). “You saw the best in NASCAR,” Graham said in a Fox News Radio interview with Brian Kilmeade. “When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace, they all rallied to Bubba’s side. So I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax” (President Donald Trump,” 2020, para. 15).
The praise of NASCAR’s unity has been echoed since drivers and crews walked behind Wallace on June 22. Following the FBI investigation on June 23, Elijah Burke (2020) tweeted about how the findings shouldn’t “overshadow yesterday’s display of peace, love, and unity.” NFL analyst Mike Clay (2020) responded, emphasizing that the show of support for Wallace was “important and necessary.” The support of Wallace continued following the president’s tweet with Richard Petty Motorsports (2020) tweeting a simple graphic with the number 43 and the hashtag #IStandWithBubba.
Wallace collected his third top ten finish of the season at Indianapolis on Sunday, placing ninth (Holleran, 2020). He currently leads fan voting for the upcoming All-Star Race, which will take place on July 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway (Stone, 2020). The next Cup Series race, the Quaker State 400, will take place at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday, July 12, at 2:30 PM ET.
BarrVisuals. (2020, June 22). @BubbaWallace gets a late race push from @CoreyLaJoieafter running out of fuel during a late race caution during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. #NASCAR [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/BarrVisuals/status/1275243933749084166?s=20
beatsbydre. (2020, July 6). We weren’t going to announce this until later this week, but hate cannot win the day. No one should ever be asked to apologize for standing up for what’s right — we are proud to welcome @bubbawallace to the Beats by Dr. Dre family. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/beatsbydre/status/1280283245465071622?s=20
Blaney. (2020, June 22). You’re my brother and always will be. Don’t let the people who are lower than life to try and bring you down. They won’t scare you because you’re strong. I stand with you pal. Forever. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Blaney/status/1275054984732774401?s=20
DougJones. (2020, June 22). We’re with you Bubba. The journey to racial justice has taken far too long. Keep your eyes on @bubbawallace at Talladega, keep that racist’s noose in your thoughts and ask: when will this end? Maybe Bubba can get us to that checkered flag a bit sooner. It’s time America. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/DougJones/status/1275071653781725188?s=20
ESPNNFL. (2020, June 4). .@A_kamara6 rocking some @BubbaWallace gear on his way to his first-ever NASCAR race. Kamara live-tweeted a race on Wednesday, in direct response to the league banning the confederate flag and NASCAR extended him an invitation to Sunday’s race. (via @NASCAR) [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ESPNNFL/status/1272212295884640257?s=20
GolicAndWingo. (2020, July 7). “A misinformed tweet is not gonna change the unity and the direction of our sport and our garage, and the way that we feel about each other.” -@KevinHarvick on the tweet that President Trump sent about NASCAR’s ratings and Bubba Wallace. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/GolicAndWingo/status/1280496766555742210?s=20
KingJames. (2020, June 21). Sickening! @BubbaWallace my brother! Know you don’t stand alone! I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete. I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports! @NASCAR I salute you as well! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/KingJames/status/1274914521396604928?s=20
MikeClayNFL. (2020, June 23). Yes! We’re all glad the noose was a misunderstanding, but let’s not pretend like racism is solved. The show of support for Bubba through all this (including Monday) was important and necessary. #IStandWithBubba [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/MikeClayNFL/status/1275552791654813696?s=20
Rachel_Nichols. (2020, June 21). A few years ago @BubbaWallace was nice enough to take a couple minutes out to meet my family (they’ve been fans since he raced in the truck series). He’s the only NASCAR driver they ever wanted to meet, and he couldn’t have been kinder. We’re rooting for you Bubba; all of us. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Rachel__Nichols/status/1274926710643781632?s=20
realDonaldTrump. (2020, July 6). Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1280117571874951170?s=20
After graduating from BGSU in the fall of 2018, Randy accepted an internship with the Marcus Graham Project, where he helped launch a pop-up advertising agency for the summer and worked as a brand manager on accounts such as Apple and Trailer Park. He currently works as an Assistant Account Manager at Rhea + Kaiser, a marketing communications agency.
June 20, 2020
While the Black Lives Matter movement was first started in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin, black lives haven’t mattered to America since the birth of the country. Systemic racism and the oppression of people of color have plagued America since the 17th century and the blatant inequality that exists is seemingly inconsequential to the majority, as we have yet to see true progress. “All lives matter” has been a common phrase used in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, and in an ideal world that statement would be true. However, it is impossible for all lives to matter until black lives do.
When will black lives matter to America?
I found myself asking this question in light of the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, amongst others. As I began to reflect on the current state of the country, I became angered at the fact that innocent people who look just like me are continuously being killed for no reason, other than being black. But I became even more enraged at the fact that in 2020, we are still having the same conversations that have been had for the past century. This isn’t a new phenomenon; police brutality, racial violence and social injustice have beset the black community since the abolishment of slavery. In the past 100 years alone, we have witnessed the cyclical nature of history time and time again, as the outcries for help and justice by people of color have been essentially disregarded.
1921-Tulsa Race Riots
On May 31, 1921 Dick Rowland, a black teenager, was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma after being falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman on an elevator (Ellsworth, 2001). Rumors quickly spread of the allegations against Rowland and within less than 24 hours, white citizens burned over 1,000 houses and a number of black-owned businesses in the flourishing African-American community of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. In addition to the destroying of property, over 100 people were killed as a result of the racially charged riot.
1930 – Thomas Shipp & Abram Smith
Thomas Shipp & Abram Smith were publicly lynched after being accused of murder, rape, and robbery. The two men were hung from a tree in front of a crowd of people after being brutally beaten (Kentake, 2015). A photo that captured the lynching was later sold as a postcard. No charges were ever brought against anyone who participated in the murders of Shipp and Smith.
1940 – Austin Callaway
In September of 1940, Austin Callaway was forcibly removed from his jail cell by a group of armed men. Callaway’s body was found the next morning in the middle of the road, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds (“Austin Callaway,” 2020). No one was ever arrested for Callaway’s murder. In fact, the police didn’t even investigate his death.
1955 – Lamar Smith
On August 13, 1955 Lamar Smith was gunned down on the steps of Lincoln County Courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi in front of nearly 40 people. The shooter was initially detained, but was later released and no charges were brought against him, even though there were multiple witnesses (Cortes, 2017).
1963 – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Virgil Lamar Ware
Shortly after the integration of public schools in Alabama, there were several bombings in Birmingham within less than two weeks that targeted African-Americans in the community. The third and most notorious bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, left four young girls dead (“Birmingham bombing,” 2020). Following the church bombing, riots and violence broke out across the city. After leaving a segregationist rally, a group of white teenagers shot and killed 13-year-old Virgil Lamar Ware in cold blood, as he was riding his bike down the street.
1970 – Phillip Gibbs & James Earl Green
In an attempt to disperse student protesters at Jackson State University, a historically black college, police officers fired over 100 rounds of ammunition into a crowd, killing Phillip Gibbs and James Earl Green. There were no arrests made in connection to the murders (Wyckoff, 2010).
1983 – Michael Jerome Stewart
On September 15, 1983, Michael Stewart was arrested for drawing graffiti in a New York subway. Within less than an hour of his arrest, police brought Stewart to the hospital. Upon his arrival, Stewart had no pulse and had been severely beaten; he died 13 days later from his injuries (Nielson, 2013).
1991 – Rodney King
In 1991, a video captured four police officers brutally beating black motorist Rodney King for over 10 minutes after pulling him over. King suffered broken bones, brain damage, and other injuries as a result of the beating (Sastry & Bates, 2017). Although the video clearly showed a use of excessive force, all four officers were found not guilty.
2006 – Sean Bell
Sean Bell was killed by five undercover police officers as he was leaving his bachelor party. The officers fired a total of 50 shots at Bell and his friends, even though they were unarmed. All police officers involved in the shooting were acquitted of all charges (Johnson, 2019).
…Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Antwon Rose, Jordan Edwards, Jayson Negron, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks…
Do you see the trend here?
This is only a small list of black men and women who have been subject to police brutality and/or racial violence, and unfortunately that list is continuing to grow. Over the years there have been a countless number of black people who have been harassed, beaten, and killed simply because of their skin color, and often times the people responsible for committing these horrendous acts are not even held accountable.
Change is long overdue. Its unfathomable that we have to fight just to matter in America. We shouldn’t have to fight for equal opportunities. We are not animals; we are human beings and are deserving of the same rights as everyone else.
When will black lives matter to America?
The time for change is now. This isn’t just a black problem; this is a human problem. No matter your race, gender, age or sexual orientation, you have a voice and you have the power to make a difference. If you genuinely believe that all lives matter, don’t sit back and ignore the racism and social injustices that are ever-present in our society. Additionally, once the protests and media coverage cease, let’s not forget that these problems exist. Just because the headlines stop, that doesn’t mean the issues have been resolved. Persistence is imperative.
It’s impossible for all lives to matter until black lives do. Together, we can end the cycle and change the narrative.
George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Philando Castile. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin.
These are just a handful of the countless black Americans who have unjustly died because of police brutality. We could compile a list of names from the last ten years alone that would continue for pages. Sadly, those would only be the deaths the public knew about. Even more tragic is the fact that we would not have known about these deaths had it not been for the recent developments in video and social media.
At this point, it is painfully obvious that racism still exists in a country that often proclaims itself the greatest in the world. For the past two weeks, I have been asking myself how I can make a difference. In looking for answers, I have discovered many quotes that inspired me to create positive change.
“No justice, no peace,” a common chant at the numerous protests that have broken out in each state across the country and other countries around the rest of the world.
“The man who can’t see isn’t the blindest, it’s the one that chooses not to see,” a sentence in a tweet from NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe (Sharpe, 2020).
“All lives don’t matter until black lives matter,” a phrase I’ve seen on countless signs and throughout social media.
“You have the power to change people’s minds!” a text I received from a friend who has been the victim of racism in America. This was perhaps the most powerful because it reinforced my belief that I could make a difference for the better.
As a white man, I will never be able to fully understand the struggles of black Americans. I have white privilege, which is an essential guarantee my life will not be made more difficult because of my skin color. Unfortunately, this is something I was not aware of until halfway through my college career. However, I now recognize this privilege and I want to use it to make a positive impact.
One thing I have never had to do is fear for my life because of my skin color. Activities that are typically part of everyday life can be safe for white people but dangerous for black people. The picture below is a perfect example of the things white people can do without the fear of being killed or seriously injured.
The most important thing we can do right now is be an anti-racist. It is no longer enough to say, “I’m not racist,” then sit back and do nothing because it doesn’t affect you. That is selfish and ignorant. Be active in the fight against racism. People are hurting, suffering, and dying because of their skin color, and we have the opportunity to support them in their fight. The first step to take in helping is to listen. Listen to your black friends, classmates, colleagues, and community members who have fought an uphill battle their entire lives. While we will never be able to understand what it is like to be in their shoes, we can use our privilege to do everything we can to help.
If you are able, find a reliable and verified organization that is accepting donations for the cause. A simple Google search produces hundreds of families, businesses, justice movements, and bail funds you can donate money to. If you are unable to donate directly, there are YouTube videos that collect revenue based on advertisements. Simply search “Donate BLM,” and select one of the top results. You can play the video in the background as you work on your homework or browse the web, and the money from advertisements will go to the Black Lives Matter fund.
If you have two minutes and Internet access, you can sign online petitions. It costs no money and some websites encourage you to sign multiple petitions in a matter of minutes. If you have the time and resources, attend a protest. Be an ally with those protesting, especially people who face danger because of their skin color.
If you have social media accounts, you can be active in sharing information about protests, donations, and petitions. Do not wait for violence to arise at protests to voice your displeasure; be angry that we still have to protest for basic human rights. Keep in mind, peaceful protests such as kneeling for the national anthem have been vastly criticized and discouraged. Even if protests do not continue at the rate they are now, continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and be a force for change.
If you see or hear racist comments or jokes in your homes, workplaces, or communities, say something. Silence is not golden. It’s toxic. Speak out and do everything you can to convince people to have a different point of view. The thread below provides answers to some of the tough questions you might be asked in that conversation.
Lastly, I would like to provide everyone with links to two videos from current and former NFL players. After all, this is a website designed to critique sports media. With the current lack of sport, that has become difficult. However, social media has been a wonderful resource, with many high-profile athletes using their platform to make their voices heard and send powerful messages.
First, a video from Emmanuel Acho. a former NFL player and current ESPN analyst. While lengthy, Acho makes some incredible and well-articulated points that each person should have the opportunity to hear.
Next, a video collaboration from several notable NFL players that was posted on multiple Twitter and Instagram accounts.
If you are looking for a way to get started, the website below is a great place.
I have used it to find petitions to sign, videos to watch, and organizations to donate to. If conversations and actions make you uncomfortable, realize that it is needed to create real change. It won’t happen right away, but it will happen with persistence and positive change. We are in the midst of the most important civil rights movement of our lifetimes. It’s time to step up and be better. We can change people’s minds. We can create change. We can make a difference.
ShannonSharpe. (2020, June 4). For Drew Brees not to understand that Colin Kaepernick was never trying to disrespect the flag or the military, although the military had disrespected a lot of black men, goes to show you that the man who can’t see isn’t the blindest, it’s the one that chooses not to see. Twitter.com. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ShannonSharpe/status/1268568840478179329