Political protests by elite athletes have returned to playing fields and basketball courts.
In the two weeks since a grand jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white New York City cop who was videotaped using a fatal chokehold on an unarmed, black father, Eric Garner, elite athletes have worn pre-game T-shirts adorned with protest slogans. The specifics of the messages are different — #blacklivesmatter, “I Can’t Breathe” — but the intent is the same: to call attention to the police and vigilante violence against black men such as Garner and Michael Brown, and children including Tamir Rice.
Last weekend, several high-profile college teams got in on the action, including the women’s basketball teams from Notre Dame and Cal.
These elite athletes certainly have the political cover: The country is swept up in massive protests, the likes of which it hasn’t seen in years. Last weekend, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in New York City’s Washington Square Park. In Oakland, protesters shut down freeways and barricaded themselves in front of that city’s police headquarters. Celebrities including Jesse Williams and Ava DuVernay have founded an activist network of their own and called for economic boycotts.
Even the president weighed in: “I think LeBron did the right thing. We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness,” Obama reportedly told People magazine. “I’d like to see more athletes do that — not just around this issue, but around a range of issues.”
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