A Year Since The Killing of Michael Brown, a Year of Sports Being Shaped by Struggle

The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by Officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent protests have sparked a new Black Freedom Struggle and forever changed this country. Just like the Black Freedom Struggle of the 1960s, this new movement has reflected itself dramatically in the world of sports. No, it’s not a carbon copy of the 1960s by any stretch of the imagination. But neither is the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Throughout the last year I have written about the ways in which the #BlackLivesMatter and post-Ferguson movement has intersected with the world of sports, not because I think it is merely an interesting development to report, but because there is ample evidence that professional athletes have played and can continue to play a pivotal role in this struggle. In a nation where segregation by race and economics has become even more of an entrenched reality in recent decades and a nation where the majority of its residents don’t have to see police as a symbol of fear for their physical safety, athletes have the ability to act as a transmission belt of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and reach the white majority. They have the capacity to both sever segregation and puncture privilege and enter space—like sports radio or ESPN—where people not engaging with this movement are confronted with its truths. A recent poll showed that in the last year the number of white people who see racism as an issue that demands governmental action to address its ills has risen from 37 percent to 53 percent. That number is not where it needs to be, but it’s a start and I do believe that the actions of athletes—from high school students to the college women at Berkeley and Notre Dame; from the NBA superstars like LeBron James and Derrick Rose to Serena Williams—have played a role in opening people’s eyes. Below is a list of the roughly twenty-seven columns I’ve written in the last year about the intersection of the #BlackLvesMatter movement in the world of sports. The hope is that they can be a resource for those further examining the ways in which these connections can push the struggle forward.

It all started with the decision by the Brown family to bury Michael with the hat of his favorite team, The St. Louis Cardinals. It then became so very much more. Without the people of Ferguson themselves who decided to go outside the stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals play to brave racist taunts, and then inside the stadium where the St. Louis Rams play to brave an even more perilous set of circumstances, these connections may have never sparked; and of course without the people of Ferguson who had the bravery to face off against a racist police force armed with militarized hardware, an unfeeling media, and a political system set up to ignore their concerns, we would collectively be so much further behind. The below articles, of course, would not have been written and they are all dedicated to this debt.

August 17, 2014: INTERVIEW: Why Pro Wrestler ‘MVP’ Made the Trip to Ferguson

August 18, 2014: The Major Problem With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Powerful Essay on Ferguson

August 22, 2014: The Wrong Question: ‘Where Are the Athletes on Ferguson?’

August 24, 2014: On the Little League World Series, Jackie Robinson West and Michael Brown

September 19, 2014: No Justice, No Football: Ferguson Demonstrators Bring Struggle to NFL Sunday

October 14, 2014: #FergusonOctober Comes to Monday Night Football

November 25, 2014: Do #BlackLivesMatter to White Athletes? Let’s Ask Them

December 1, 2014: St. Louis Rams Players Tell the World That #BlackLivesMatter

December 8, 2014: #BlackLivesMatter Takes the Field: A Weekend of Athletes Speaking Out

December 10, 2014: The Enduring Importance of the Activist Athlete

December 12, 2014: The Power of Political Athletes to Puncture Privilege

December 15, 2014: In the Spirit of Wyomia Tyus, Women Athletes Say #BlackLivesMatter

December 17, 2014: The Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Hawkins, #BlackLivesMatter and the Accidental Activist

December 19, 2014: Interview With Ariyana Smith: The First Athlete Activist of #BlackLivesMatter

December 22, 2014: Athlete-Activists Can’t Be Scared Silent After the Murder of Two NYPD Officers

December 27, 2014: Lesson Learned: High School Hoops Team Disinvited From Tournament Over ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts

February 6, 2015: Serena Williams, Indian Wells and Rewriting the Future

February 20, 2015: The #BlackLivesMatter Surveillance Special at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

March 13, 2015: ‘Are We Still Thugs When You Pay to Watch Us Play Sports?’

April 10, 2015: So… the NYPD Just Broke an NBA Player’s Leg

April 15, 2015: A Police Story Unravels: How Did the NYPD Break an NBA Player’s Leg?

April 27, 2015: Camden Yards and the Baltimore Protests for Freddie Gray

April 28, 2015: Apartheid Games: Baltimore, Urban America, and Camden Yards

April 30, 2015: Baltimore Oriole Adam Jones and the Power of Seeing Pain

May 22, 2015: An NBA Player Is Missing the Playoffs Because the NYPD Broke His Leg—Why the Sports-Media Silence?

June 29, 2015: Proposal: The Bree Newsome Olympic Challenge

July 14, 2015: Serena Williams Is Today’s Muhammad Ali

Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com