Athletes are fed up. Fed up with social inequality. Fed up with police violence against African Americans. All of it. They’ve been making their presence felt more than ever the past few days. The Milwaukee Bucks even took the unprecedented measure of boycotting an NBA playoff game Wednesday, hoping to bring attention to Jacob Blake’s unconscionable shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin earlier this week.
Mets slugger Dominic Smith broke down in tears describing what it’s like to be black in these difficult times. Clippers coach Doc Rivers discussed our current state of affairs at length in his post-game press conference Tuesday night, highlighting the challenges he and other African Americans face on a daily basis. Rivers, whose father was in law enforcement, advocated for police reform while offering the heartbreaking commentary that blacks love a country that “doesn’t love us back.” But mostly Rivers expressed fear, fear of being shot at or even killed at the hands of police, perhaps over something as inconsequential as a counterfeit bill, the impetus for George Floyd’s arrest and subsequent death in Minneapolis this past May.
NFL rookie Chase Claypool, who starred at Notre Dame prior to joining the Pittsburgh Steelers as a second-round pick in April’s draft, can relate to the fear and dread experienced by Rivers and others in the black community. The 22-year-old British Columbia native shared a text message he received from his father Wednesday night, encouraging the wide receiver to drive slowly and avoid being pulled over because, based on recent events in our fractured nation, such an occurrence could ultimately prove fatal.
The sentiment expressed by Claypool’s father may seem extreme to some, but this is the fear black people in our country deal with day in and day out. It’s what LeBron James and others in search of social justice have been telling us for months. This was supposed to be the most exciting time of Claypool’s life, weeks away from taking his first NFL snap at Heinz Field with legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center. Now his dad just hopes he makes it home alive.