Social Protest in the Sports World


Katie Stinson, Senior Staff Writer

Racial injustices across the country have sparked conflict, protests and national outcry for reform. Companies, politicians and everyday people have spoken out about this issue and professional athletes are no exception. From football, to surfing, to tennis, teams and athletes have used their platforms in hopes of bringing about change.  Some of these forms of protest, however, have been met with criticism and backlash from fans. 

Teams and players across the country have joined the wave of protests that began after the death of George Floyd in May. The NFL put messages in the end zones saying, “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us”. Teams from various sports have linked arms on the field for a “moment of unity” and some players have kneeled or sat during the playing of  the National Anthem. Stadiums are filled with Black Lives Matter banners and flags, and a lot of teams have changed their uniforms to have the same message. Some teams, like the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, have decided to boycott games as a form of protest. Major League Baseball changed their logo from MLB to BLM.

The protests have gained a lot of attention and many activist groups and organizations have praised the teams and athletes partaking in the movement. However, some fans disagree with the way the protests are being conducted. Many students here at HHS are sports fans and have varying opinions about the protests. Junior Alex Goodrick said, “I understand why they kneel during the Anthem, but I think it’s disrespectful to the veterans and soldiers fighting for this country.” Senior Sophia Kimmel has a different opinion about the protests saying, “I think bringing BLM into sports is a good way to bring attention to the topic, but I understand how some may be offended by players kneeling. What most people don’t realize, however, is that kneeling during the National Anthem is to show they don’t agree with what’s happening in our nation at the moment. The idea behind it was in no way to disrespect veterans and those who lost their lives fighting for our country, but I understand how it may seem that way.” 

Teachers at HHS also gave their opinions about the protests. Mrs. Lisa Shattuck (English) stated, “While I understand the social protest element, and in part sympathize, I think it is disrespectful to our flag, our veterans, and this country to kneel during the National Anthem. Still, anyone who glances up in the stands will see many who are beer guzzling, checking their phones, and talking away while the anthem is being played. They are displaying the same disrespect, if not more so, because their behavior isn’t presented in defense of any cause, it’s a reflection of their own rudeness, lack of concern or selfishness.” Another teacher Mr. Thomas King (Social Studies) provided his stance on the topic explaining, “I personally don’t like athletes kneeling for the flag; however their opinions and the way in which they choose to show it won’t prevent me from watching a game. America is a great place because it allows us to speak our minds, and if viewers strongly disagree with this form of protest they can simply not watch the game.”

Regardless of personal opinions, these athletes are trying to shine a light on racial injustices and inequalities. Even in what is considered the greatest country in the world, it is painfully clear how far we are from a world our forefathers aspired to create. Our country was built on a promise of freedom, a world where “all men are created equal.” But in the words of Nelson Mandela, this promise has been nothing more than a “bitter joke.” The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing there is one, and in a country that guarantees every person the right of freedom of speech and assembly under the Constitution’s First Amendment, it is so crucial we speak out against racial injustices. It is our responsibility to speak up and bring about change during this pivotal time.