Opinion: Athletes, coaches, and sports media should be held responsible for the war they've stoked

by Peter Heck · Sep 14th, 2020 5:47 pm
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Last Updated Sep 18th, 2020 at 9:47 pm

It was almost exactly 19 years ago today that I was becoming frustrated by the inability to purchase FDNY and NYPD t-shirts and hats to show my support for the first responders that had lost their lives, and the countless others who were risking their lives at that moment, in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack.

Internet commerce wasn't what it is today, obviously, and the department stores that were set to sell them just couldn't keep them in stock. We had all been reminded, in tragic fashion, that America's heroes aren't those wearing baseball, basketball, or football uniforms, but rather those that wear the uniform of their city, county, and country. It was the first time ever that the insignia of the NYPD was a hotter item than that of the NBA.

Just under two short decades later, surrounding the anniversary of 9/11 no less…

  • I watch as those who wear basketball uniforms take a knee to protest alleged systemic brutality perpetrated by those who wear the uniform of their cities and counties.
  • I flip the channel to see those who, taking their cues from these activist athletes, riot in the streets, screaming, spitting, and assaulting those same uniformed lawmen.
  • I look online and observe those who, fueled by the irresponsible and reckless anti-police rhetoric of these athletes and complicit sports media, take the next logical step, and begin a grotesque war on law enforcement.
  • I scan my Twitter feed and am gutted by the perverse evil of those who, having been convinced by LeBron James and others of the lie that black people are, "literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside" their homes, block the entrance of emergency rooms and chant "we hope they die" as a young mother fights for her life.
  • I open my email and find someone has sent me a video that has circulated throughout social media of those who, driven by a pseudo-empowerment fantasy facilitated by advantaged elites who retreat nightly to their mansions in gated-communities, glory in the bloodshed [language warning].

No, I don't believe in telling other people how they can protest or grind their axes. People have their own voices, their own platforms, their own causes, their own approaches. They have a right to speak, in word or in deed. But I do too.

So, let me engage that right and simply point out to the pampered athlete class, their overcompensated coaches, and the professional pot-stirrers of sports media, of what their propaganda has wrought.

Let me speak plainly for a second to those players, coaches, and media who persist in conducting this ongoing political theater that demands we pretend that the actions of what statistically have been proven to constitute a remarkably small handful of bad cops caught on camera – and even those incidents largely lacking any demonstrable racial motivation behind the otherwise grievous conduct – are indicative of some systemic racism plaguing our society...

I'm past the point of caring about the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that pervades your privileged community. Perhaps you are feeling guilty about your opulent wealth, and see your activism as a way of identifying with those you've left behind.

But it isn't helping. Your tone-deaf performance art is conveying false messages of an imminent peril to black people that is, unsurprisingly, now manifesting in bloody and senseless carnage that makes every citizen – of every color – less safe.

Whatever your intentions, you are willful participants in a brooding race war and in the intentional mischaracterization of the vast majority of selfless public servants that endangers both them and their families.

If your reaction to that assessment is to defensively recoil and protest, "You can't blame us for the actions of a few bad actors!" please pause long enough to realize what you are saying. Please realize that just as despicable cop assassins do not accurately represent you and your motives, neither does an officer kneeling on a man's neck for 8 minutes represent the character of all American law enforcement.

America's social fabric is wearing thin. Those in the public eye, with platforms of influence, have a grave responsibility to use them to promote peace and unity. You have chosen otherwise, and we are all poorer and more vulnerable because of it.

Nineteen years ago, I remember watching the scenes of men and women of all backgrounds, races, and nationalities, lining American streets and saluting our first responders with promises to "never forget." Who knew then that our country's most privileged, wealthy entertainers and athletes would ensure "never" would mean less than 20 years?

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