• April 16, 2024

Baseball Joins Other Sports in Flexing Its Activist Muscles

The arrival of activism in sport is, of course, not new. From Robinson to baseball, Muhammad Ali to boxing to Colin Kaepernick to soccer to Megan Rapinoe to soccer, athletes have long pushed for social justice that is important to them and their communities. But the breadth and public nature of the efforts over the past year as protests against social justice swept the nation on the eve of a presidential election have shown the willingness of leagues, teams and athletes to engage in debates and take positions they often have avoided.

Sometimes the shift has been reluctant, as a result of national politics or a change in public opinion. Sometimes teams and leagues have been pushed to act by their own players. But Friday showed once again that sport is not just entertainment in a vacuum.

“A lot has happened throughout the year, not just with the pandemic but as a society,” Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox executive, told reporters on Friday. “You postponed it for all the right reasons.”

It was only five years ago that Kaepernick’s decision to kneel quietly during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality sparked violent disapproval from some team owners and criticism from a stern section of the white fan base. But after all, even NFL owners like the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones who it once was ordered his players not to kneel were during the national anthem join them in gesture on the sidelines.

And the players, aware that their wealth and stature gave them a valuable megaphone backed by social media, pushed on. After Jacob Blake, a black man, was paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play a playoff game in Orlando, Florida that August. Dozens of other teams in other leagues within a few hours had joined the work interruption. Within days the basketball players emerged from meeting NBA officials with new pledges that they would join their fight against social injustice.

Some players went beyond the rationale to openly conduct political acts such as campaigning for specific candidates. In the WNBA, players on the Atlanta Dream were like that angry through testimony of the team’s co-owner, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, about the Black Lives Matter movement, which she is actively promoting for her opponent, Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, insert, Wear t-shirts with your name on it on the square. Loeffler lost the election and not only swept her opponent, but also another Democrat who was running in the state, to victory.

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