People are so predictable. Especially the fake ones.
Like clockwork, they trickled down social media timelines on Saturday afternoon. Reactionary, never anticipatory, messages from coaches and leagues about what was going on in the world.
“Looks like the ‘okay, we gotta put out a statement’ Slack messages have been sent all over sports,” tweeted ESPN’s Bomani Jones.
University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart was one of the first ones, as he felt the need to share his thoughts.
“I firmly stand against racism of all kinds,” he wrote. “I realize that I feel this differently, but I am hurting for the young black men on my team, I am hurting for the black men on our staff. I cannot imagine the agony, grief and fear that our black communities feel today and every other day. I do not have the answers but I am committed to moving with purpose and being part of the solutions. We have to make a change. We have to be better.”
This is the part where I remind you that Smart lost former quarterback Justin Fields because of the racism in UGA’s athletic program. Fields transferred to Ohio State and received a waiver to play immediately as his request was based on the fact that he had been called the N-word by a member of UGA’s baseball team during a game.
Fields finished in third for the Heisman last season and led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record in a season in which he threw for 3,273 yards and scored 51 touchdowns.
I guess Smart’s “stance” wasn’t that strong.
But on cue, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wasn’t going to let someone like Smart upstage him in an area in which he reigns supreme: contradiction.
“The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country. The protesters’ reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel,” Goodell dared to write.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions.
“As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”
In 150 words, Goodell tried to erase the last four years, and acted as if Colin Kaepernick never existed, as there wasn’t a single mention of his name.
I just want to know if Goodell had Jay-Z write this for him as part of the deal he made with the league to “Inspire Change.” You know it’s bad when Taylor Swift is speaking out louder than Jay-Z. But what do you expect from a man that said, “I think we’ve moved past kneeling.”
But to truly understand how worthless Goodell’s statement is, all you have to do is realize that the hours before, a former league executive confirmed that Kaepernick’s exclusion had everything to do with kneeling, and nothing to do with his on-field abilities.
“No teams wanted to sign a player — even one as talented as Kaepernick — whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business,” wrote Joe Lockhart, who served as the NFL’s vice president of communications from 2016-2018, in a column for CNN.
“Colin Kaepernick became the symbol of black men being treated differently than white men in America,” Lockhart said. “That symbol of racial injustice was reinforced every day that Colin sat on the outside of the football world. It may have seemed like a good business decision for the clubs to not sign him, and it certainly wasn’t illegal, but it was wrong.”
And that’s what you call being blackballed.
Media organizations have also gotten in on the act and posted statements, as Sports Illustrated’s union released a post in a pathetic attempt at transparency.
“Newsrooms must amplify voices of color to better cover the systemic racism that led to George Floyd’s death. The layoffs of the last year have left SI with no black staff writers — we are part of the problem. We will bargain for practices to improve our diversity and inclusion.”
It shouldn’t take a national awakening to realize that there aren’t any black people around.
So far, we’ve seen messages from college basketball coaches that lead teams full of black men like Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, UNC’s Roy Williams, Kansas’ Bill Self, and Purdue’s Matt Painter.
Where are you Coach K?
The next Zion Williamson is watching. Because we see how Ohio State is supporting players like Seth Townes, a transfer who hasn’t played a game yet, and was detained for taking part in protests in Columbus, Ohio after graduating from Harvard.
In college football, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, a white quarterback who is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the next NFL Draft, has chosen a side.
“I’m siding with my brothers that deal, and continuously deal, with things I will never experience. The injustice is clear.. and so is the hate. It can no longer be explained away. If you’re still “explaining” it — check your heart and ask why,” he wrote.
Lawrence’s coach, Dabo Swinney, has gone missing. And so has Nick Saban.
“College football coaches making generational wealth off the talents of Black young men are quiet at a moment and time when those Black kids need them to strap up & stand up for Black humanity. Where’s that brotherhood & courage y’all be talmbout? I guess that’s just football talk,” tweeted Annie Apple, a journalist and the mother of Carolina Panthers cornerback Eli Apple, who played at Ohio State.
We need more of this. And it should not be lost that a women’s team made the most powerful statement.
Sometimes, inaction is more profound than any soundbite that can be heard and more impactful than any statement that can be written. But even when you do make them, it’s always easy to tell who means it, and who’s just going through the motions.
You don’t get points for being progressive post-factum. It’s like showing up at the end of the party and pretending like you had a great time. We know who was there. And we’re not giving you credit for arriving just in time for the last dance.