NPR had this interesting story.
Last week, softball was in the spotlight, and not because anybody broke ranks and knelt but because the general manager of the Scrap Yard Dawgs, an independent professional softball team, tweeted a picture of the players standing at President Trump from the organization’s official Twitter account. The last portion of the tweet under the picture read, quote, “everyone respecting the FLAG!” with flag in all caps and an exclamation mark.
It turned out that this was the first game of the season and the team had stood merely out of habit, not to make any kind of political statement. When the players returned to the locker room and discovered that they had been made props by team’s GM to suck up to Trump, they were pissed, to put it mildly. The players asked Kiki Stokes, the only black player on the team, what they should do in response. When the GM arrived and tried to justify what she had done and offered no apology, Stokes left the room and soon after every other player followed her.
Within a week, the players reorganized themselves with a new name This Is Us and new jerseys and are playing with just their coaches and without the former GM.
In another story, college athletes who have long been treated like serfs and exploited to make money for their schools, are now finding their voice and demanding changes or else they will not play, practice, or even meet, a threat that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.
Last week, a group of student athletes at Kansas State University said they would not play, practice or meet unless the school took action against a student who tweeted a racist comment about George Floyd. The school responded by saying it supports student athletes, quote, “in standing up in the fight against racism,” unquote. And at the University of Texas, players have threatened to boycott recruitment and donor events unless the school meets their demands, which include replacing the university’s fight song, which is rooted in the Confederacy and was once played at minstrel shows.
Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, that is an advocacy group for college athletes, explains what is happening.
[P]layers have always had this power. They’ve just never really mobilized it around an issue that they felt strongly enough about to put things on the line. And as we’re seeing the dynamic – the institutions really don’t have much choice but to really accommodate those voices, especially when it comes to something like this, when the nation clearly sees that that death was just completely unjust and, really, policing needs to change.
This kind of thing is really encouraging and should be a warning to colleges, team owners, and managers that the old order is no longer tenable. When Colin Kaepernick knelt to protest systemic racism, very few other players, black or white, joined him in that action even if they sympathized with his views. Things are very different now.