There are copious examples of social injustices in Sports and activism in the face of these injustices. Yet, major athletes, like LeBron James, are told they should “stick to sports.” The problem with that is, he is sticking to sports by being vocal about social issues.
In some ways, sports are social justice.
The same people hollering about Sports being a “neutral space” that is not to be influenced by “social justice warriors” say nothing when it is influenced by right-wing policies (i.e. President Donald Trump pressuring the NFL to penalize anthem protesters). No one cared when Tom Brady showed off his MAGA hat, but Colin Kaepernick was ridiculed for his socks that depicted law enforcement officers as pigs. So, really, dissenters only want these athletes to stick to sports when their views are unaligned with the status quo.
Which brings me to Superbowl LIII.
As major acts like Rihanna and Cardi B declined to perform at halftime, Twitter became divided between who stood by Kaepernick and who was “selling out.” This very argument got Travis Scott dragged for a few days after he had agreed to perform at the half time show.
Some even brought up an old interview when he commented on the Michael Brown shooting, and they argued that he was trying to use the old adage about “Black on Black” crime to justify Brown’s death.
According to Color Lines, who attempted to debunk common myths about “Black on Black” crime “most murders are intraracial,” so deferring to Black on Black crime when talking about police brutality is a false equivalence, since people are more likely to murder someone in their racial group.
Because of Scott’s faux pas, people were understandably outraged. However, Scott is not an anomaly. I realized that today when I saw people still tweeting and talking about the Superbowl, as if Kaepernick’s protest is not ongoing.
Far too often, contemporary social issues are hot for the moment but eventually die out. In journalism, we talk about something like this with reporting and call it “parachute reporting.”
“Parachute” social justice is the downfall of social media activism.
People want to sound “woke” because it gets them clicks, but they do not want to make the sacrifices it takes to send a message to the top that the bottom will not be silenced and abused.
Think about it.
If a million of us had decided not to watch the Superbowl today, would it have made a difference? Possibly…if we had already planned to watch the game.
Although I did not watch the Superbowl today, it was not just because I disagree with the treatment of Kaepernick. It is also because I don’t have a huge interest in sports. So, it was easier for me to skip the Superbowl because it is not something that I care to watch anyway, which is where nuance comes in.
Really, my watching the Superbowl would have had a direct impact on the NFL because I am not in their target market. If one million people stood with Kaep today, it likely would not have made any difference if they weren’t Superbowl viewers to begin with.
I cannot accept that the NFL would collude to take down Kaepernick because he dared challenge a system that systemically oppresses people who look like him. Because I cannot accept that, I could not bring myself to watch the Superbowl, or even just sneak in to see the halftime show. It felt dishonest.
While I was tempted to see Chloe and Halle Bailey perform (because I love their music), I took a stance and I am standing by it.
But I understand people’s reasons for wanting to watch the Superbowl: because you’re going to throw a bomb party, or because you’re betting on the game, or because you’re a longtime football fan, or because it’s a bonding moment between you and your family.
Those moments are important, but not watching the Superbowl does not mean you can’t have these moments. Your Superbowl party could have been a watch party of a great Black history film; quality time with your family could be spent unpacking Kaep v. NFL, which will be remembered.
Years from now, these will become defining moments that you reflect on. When you do, what will you say? Comment below after enjoying my rendition of Spongebob’s protest chant.
JAVANNA PLUMMER, RWEBEL IN CHIEF
Javanna is the editor of “Rwebel Magazine,” the architect behind “Rwebel Radio,” and the pioneering force of “Xscape.” Through her words, Javanna hopes to inspire creativity, passion and forward-thinking.