ESPN Contributing Writer Richard Lapchick wrote thse words 12/31/2015 and more
"NBA superstars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and others wore "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts during pregame warm-ups to put a focus on the Eric Garner grand jury decision. Kevin Durant also wrote "Black Lives Matter" on his game shoes before the nationally televised game between his Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers."
"With five NBA superstars now standing tall, I hope others will find their courage and join them before the news cycle passes. With them, sport can continue to use its powerful platform for social change. Society cannot afford another Ferguson or Staten Island, and sport cannot afford to witness another 106 reported incidents of racism in 2015."
Sadly it took Freddie Gray's death to truly move the conversation forward. It took people in the streets, people raising their voices and saying to the world "pay attention" and it took the indictment of 6 police officers, mixed races and genders before the violence in the streets is taking a breather. Yet the statistics, as grim as they are for African-Americans are worse for Native Americans. The Mascot and team identity issue is not about statistics. It is about human dignity, decency, morality and integrity.
Americans have yet to become fully aware of the racism we display day in and day out to Native Americans, most clearly and prominently displayed in the racist team identies across the various major leagues. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, PGA et al are you listening?
I am calling for a conference on the topic of racism in sports teams' identities to bring all those interested, responsible, involved and affected by this travesty into a shared conversation space and hopefully into the same room. We must not, we cannot take the path of least resistence, nor can we choose to hide behind the old dichotomy of good/bad beliefs. We are all in this together. It--sports, society, life" is not "either/or" it is "both/and". We must recognize the detrimental impact of these brands on our society and on our youth. We must change the brands. Together.
Businesses are not exempt from consequences as businesses are made up of people, people with children, families, investors, customers, suppliers, managers. marketers, lawyers and general employees, none of whom are protected from real world realities. The United States of America is a country, begun with words and then suppored by victory won on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War. Over the centuries America and Americans have change, grown and prospered. Now it is time for us to look in the mirror and into our hearts and souls. We can change. We do not need death and battle to change. We can and have changed because fundamentally we Americans believe in the hope of a better tomorrow. We believe in our ability to bring it into reality. We believe because in many ways we have done it. We know the work is not done. We are up to the challenge
We all know some truths: the first Euroopean arrivals to our lands did not arrive to find an empty landscape. People were living here and had for millenium. The Europeans would not have survived but for the assistance of those people. Jusice to, with, for and among the Indigenous peoples and their descendants today is a complicated ongoing struggle. Yet the clearest injustice that continues today can be readily remedied: remove the Native American identities of major league sports teams.
It is a matter of determination to do the right thing, courage to lead, basic human integrity and esential human decency. The leagues, the players, the team owners and all their families can endlessly churn the debate and the media, all forms can foster division, feed conflict and spread discord. Or, perhaps good and wise people can come together, stand tall and do the right thing: make the decision to bring about change. Now.
Then the question becomes not if or when but how. Surely a collectioin of bright people can figure this out. Brands do change all the time. Even game rules change all the time. What does not change is the diginity deserved by every person, the importance of human life, the importance of every human life and the need for new leadership and ideas aroud justice and past wrongs continued into today.
When the teams that use the Native American team identities travel to other cities and countries they are taking their racism into the homes and playing fields of every city and stadium the reach. Parents, do you actively want to teach your children racism while you try to share a sport you love with them? Team owners, can you look your children and grandchildren in the eyes and say, yes I was challenged on the racism of my team's identity but the profits were too important for me to change, I did not want to be told what to do, I was about winning, not racism issues and no one else was doing it so why rock the boat and lead? Sponsors, do you really want to have your products assoiated with racism? Government officials your silence on this matter, your welcomng these teams into your stadiums supports this racism. Will you accept that many understand this, many who charge you with racism see this as trading your ethics for popularity, your silence bought by team sponsor donations?
To the white people reading this: I am white, I have known of the wrong in the team identities for years and have, until now, worked largely quietly and behind the scenes. But I have come to understand that no one owns a racial issue, racism is not only the issue of the race being brutalized, exploited or harmed. It is everyone's issue. Everyone needs to be involved in the conversation and at the decision making table. If any group is kept away the harms will only continue and any attempt at a realistic path forward, a new path forward is defeated before the first step is taken. I do not claim to have solutions. I do call out a wrong and work for change.
Certainly there will be those who refuse to accept any change or any model for justice. They may enjoy their status as "victim," they may be bored and choose anger rather than engagement since anger is usually intense and fast while engagement takes time, discipline and humility, they may be fearful of anything and everything different or new possibly because of past traumas, they may be arrogant in their power, they may be fearful of social ostracism if they are perceived as weak or betraying their social group-no matter what that group may be but whatever their reasons we must not let the most resistent people in our world perpetuate this wrong.
These teams are visible worldwide. It is time for change created in a new way with forward change, one done visibly and promptly. No threats, no demands but shared converstion aroudn perhaps the most important social topic today: racism. I am asking for a conference on the topic of racism in sports teams' identities. Coming from Cleveland, Ohio where I learned of the depth and breadth of the topic with the MLB team I now live in the Boston area. Boston is the home of the current Super Bowl Championship team the New England Patriots the Boston Red Sox, winners of 3 World Series in the 21s century, the Boston Celtics winner of the 2008 NBA and the Boston Bruins, the 2011 Stanley Cup winners, a collection of major universities, world famous museums, corporate headquarters and the home of the first battle of the American Revolution it seems to me to be a reasonable location for this conference.
To assist in developing the conference please contact me at Sherrie@RacismIsNotAGame.com