I am not a sports writer, but I need to write about a few athletes today. Colin Kaepernick, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are my top three draft picks for fall 2016.
For the last month, my Facebook feed has been filled to the brim with GIFs, thought-pieces and videos centered on the story of an NFL quarterback in Green Bay sitting through the national anthem. For the last two weeks, I’ve listened as classmates have expressed pride, annoyance and excitement over their buzzer-beater hometown hero Koenig driving to North Dakota to protest the Dakota Pipeline.
Bronson vs. Kaepernick: Not all protests are created equalBronson Koenig is known across campus for his prodigious basketball ability. What Madison student could forget his buzzer-beater against Xavier Read…
During the last several days, I have published two stories from two different students about athletes and protest. Last night, I listened as my coworkers frantically put together a news story about our star basketball player’s Kanye-esque Twitter takeover on #blacklivesmatter.
[UPDATE] Hayes blows up Twitter with #BlackLivesMatter discussionFor six hours Thursday evening, University of Wisconsin star basketball forward Nigel Hayes tweeted 44 times supporting the Black Lives Read…
With each of these three instances, an immediate stampede of boisterous criticism followed — “It’s not their job to speak on politics. They’re athletes. They need to focus.”
We have reached a point where we cannot tolerate a prominent person of color in America expressing their anger after watching their own brothers and sisters die on the streets without first attempting to either correct their strategy, critique their medium or paint them as a crazed, tabloid-seeking celebrity.
I can’t understand how it is so hard to grant people of color the same freedom as everyone else — the freedom to be a person with layers of emotion, to shoot a basketball really, really well, while also being aware that “racism towards black people isn’t getting ‘worse,’ it’s getting filmed and shared for all to see what actually goes on.” Among the many disgruntled tweets directed at Hayes last night, one follower called reading his Twitter a “bummer.”
Nigel Hayes is a black man living in a country with one of the highest rates of police brutality and murder in the developed world. Since the day Kaepernick chose to stay put during the star spangled banner, 15 black Americans have been killed by the police, the most recent of which is Terence Crutcher. Video footage has proven more than a dozen times that officer-involved shootings are happening when hands are up, when pockets are emptied, when they comply, when they speak, when they are 12, when they are wearing a hoodie, when they are silent. When they are black.
Though I cannot speak for Nigel, I do believe that his tweets make one thing clear — he knows it could be him next. And that’s a huge, huge bummer.
In the face of loss, theft and tragedy, people of color are expected to remain logical, concise and controlled. Most importantly, they must not stray from their roles in society or in entertainment. Beyoncé must not “politicize” herself by advocating feminism. Kim Kardashian must not “soil her brand” by tweeting #blacklivesmatter. Kanye West tweeting about the inequality of black artists in the industry makes him a raving, celebrity lunatic. Their words of pain are slapped on tabloid covers, twisted and pulled like a wad of gum before being spat onto the pavement and stepped on until they disappear.
You’re more annoyed that your beloved Nigel is a buzzkill on Twitter tonight than you are over young black boys having mothers who hold their breath every time they go to the gas station alone? Every time they drink Arizona alone?
I’ve heard a lot of people saying with a lot of confidence that Kaepernick choosing to sit was useless, that he wasn’t standing up for anything, that it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve heard that Bronson protesting a pipeline is a waste of time, that protestors “just sway people from their cause” by harassing the public, that Martin Luther King Jr. would never block a highway. Now, I’m hearing that Nigel “ranting” on Twitter is just going to “lose him fans.”
First of all, in the face of such immense violence and hatred, do you really, truly think Nigel’s top concern is his fanbase?
Second, and more importantly, what exactly are you doing that’s making a difference?
Quit finding every reason to continue ignoring the underlying pulse of bigotry pounding in the veins of this country. Maybe you don’t like that Nigel chose 44 tweets, Kaepernick chose his knee or Bronson chose a picket sign, but they’re doing it for a reason. You’re better off spending your time figuring out what that reason is, than whining about how it’s cluttering your Twitter feed.
Each form of protest is distinct, necessary and valid. If you really don’t believe it’s making a difference, guess what — you’re thinking about it. You’re reading about it. You can try to plug your ears, but this nation is having a conversation about it, and so are you.
Yusra Murad ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in business and psychology.