Mark Figley:

By Mark Figley - Guest Columnist

Much has changed with sports in America since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the playing of the national anthem in 2016. And while wokesters may support acts such as this in the political scheme of things, recent polls by Yahoo News and YouGov suggest that nearly 35% of Americans have begun to tune in less to professional sports due to persistent social justice messaging.

Historically, sports in America has served as an escape from the general madness of the larger world. Regardless of political affiliation, this was something everyone could seemingly agree on. In fact, those from different philosophical stripes could often come together as fans to root for the same team or athletic hero. But not anymore.

Today, professional announcers increasingly sprinkle their broadcasting comments with preaching and lectures on topics which were once taboo. Team owners are also venturing down the same road with their own political speech, as in the case of the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban comfortably assuming the team could cease playing the national anthem prior to its games. This before the the NBA stepped in and overruled him.

Then there are the superstars of sports like Lebron James who never let an opportunity pass by without injecting an opinion. Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali all took strong political stands, although they largely let their on-field performance speak for itself. In the case of Ali, he sacrificed the prime of his career and boxing titles over being drafted. Michael Jordan had his own take on the subject of protest when he was asked why he wasn’t more outspoken, explaining, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” He also knew that fans just want to be entertained.

Yet while James has stated that blacks feel hunted by police “every time we step outside our homes,” he believes that America is systemically racist, and tweeted out, “You’re next,” to a Columbus, Ohio police officer following the highly-publicized shooting death of a black teen.He has been content to say nothing about Chinese repression.

During a series of exhibition games in China during the height of the 2019 Hong Kong protests, James reportedly told NBA commissioner Adam Silver that he saw little benefit in speaking out about the situation since the league wouldn’t. He even said that he and other NBA players weren’t informed enough about the situation to really comment on it. But James had no problem criticizing then Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet of support for protestors. This after ESPN reported that Morey’s remarks had resulted in James and other players losing lucrative Chinese endorsement deals and celebrity appearances as part of the fall-out.

For years, James’ level of knowledge regarding social issues has not prevented him from having an opinion. Is Lebron unaware that a million Muslim Uighers are being held in Chinese concentration camps? What additional knowledge does he require to condemn such an action; especially when these camps are located in the same region where the NBA established a training center? And what of China’s threats to invade Taiwan and attack the U.S. if it steps in? Perhaps it’s just easier for James to keep quiet since NBA China is valued at $4 billion.

After U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Lebron’s media company, The Uninterrupted, saw fit to challenge the International Olympic Committee rule barring athletes from political protests on the medal stand and in competition; calling it “silencing athletes voices.” The organization went on to say that it stands for “athlete empowerment,” adding, “When athletes speak up, they start conversations and things change.”

In the meantime, the IOC will allow athlete protests prior to events, which is bad enough, but still doesn’t satisfy Lebron. So, as he continues to bash the Olympics for not being woke enough, the question is will he educate himself enough about Chinese threats and repression to speak his mind during the next NBA exhibition tour there? And perhaps Ms. Berry can accompany him.

By Mark Figley

Guest Columnist

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

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