"I Can't Breathe": The Personal is the Political - Part I

It’s 2014:  coverage regarding professional athletes’ political stands and behaviors, have been addressed by all facets of media.

Not only have sportswriters written extensively on these various issues, but all forms of social media, political / economic news stories, and fans alike, have weighed in on our society’s “once-silent” subjects.

The state of race relations, gay/ lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender (GLBT) topics, domestic violence, and child abuse, are now being covered as “accepted topics” to address by our society, and hence by the advertising industry in professional sports.


To name a few professional athletes, publicly expressing their views WITHOUT fear of being fired, regarding the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trevon Martin:

Our own Derrek Rose, with his “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up T-shirt, was fully covered by sportswriters for our Chicago Tribune’ Haugh http://tinyurl.com/mdptx76  , and Sun- Times Rick Telander. http://tinyurl.com/jwpzpvg .

Even the New York Times addressed Rose’s thought process and actions, http://tinyurl.com/nq8lmnb .  

These articles and stories were written without fear of sanction by their employers. The “personal is political” is now being covered by dozens of sportswriters and newscasts, bringing attention to actions by professional athletes as significant, worthy of public attention.

Rose’s personal message was then repeated by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Marshan Lynch, and 5 players from the St. Louis Rams raising their hands as in “Don’t Shoot.”

Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith were given the opening 10 minute segment on their differing views regarding Black men and police behavior, on “The NBA on TNT.”   And recall the actions by the entire Miami Heat team in March, 2013, after Trevon Martin was shot.  Dwayne Wade and Co. all wore hooded sweatshirts as they ran onto the court.

Jason Collins came out as being a gay basketball player, while Michael Sam, defensive co-player of the year for the SEC, did the same before this year’s NFL draft. Both had the support of their teammates.

Chris Kluwe, of the Vikings and Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Ravens vocalized support over same-sex marriage as “civil rights” concerns.  Kluwe continues his fight over being “let go” by his team in the court, but is quite vocal about his stance and values.

MLB umpire Dale Scott in 2013,  was praised by Bud Selig for his 29 years of outstanding work as an umpire. Scott “came out” in 2012 with a picture of him and his husband. He continues to be fully accepted by his colleagues and MLB, referring three World Series and multiple playoffs.

Donald Sterling was essentially “forced out” from his ownership of the L.A. Clippers, after a revelation of his racist beliefs.  Ray Rice of the Ravens raised national awareness of the extent of domestic violence, while Adrian Peterson of the Vikings was suspended after allegations of child abuse.

And ultimately, advertisers are displaying commercials with NFL and NHL athletes, during timeouts or after games, addressing abuse and violence as unacceptable behaviors.

While people of power and influence (team owners, league executives, media outlets), are giving themselves “pat on the backs” for accepting valuable  discussion of these significant issues, are they responding to society’s acceptance of these actions, or being leaders in bringing these topics to the forefront?

In my lifetime, it was not that long ago when public acceptance was unkind,  uncaring, and vilified athletes expressing their values.  My next blog will address several incidents, encoded forever in my memory.

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