Social change hampered by Neanderthals

Culture change is a messy process. We need to stand up to the ignorant in this fight for social justice

Ken ReedI truly think this time is different. I think as a society, we’re fed up with lingering racial injustice.

It’s been heartening to see white leaders in government, corporate America and the sports world step up in a strong way toward social justice in the days since George Floyd died.

But this movement toward real “justice for all” is going to be a bumpy ride. A couple recent incidents make that very clear.

In Scottsdale, Ariz., home to the San Francisco Giants spring training headquarters and the complex where injured Giants and other players are training during baseball’s COVID-19 shutdown, Guy Phillips, a Scottsdale city council member, spoke to an anti-mask rally last week (in the state with the highest positive test rate for COVID-19).

Phillips stepped up to the microphone wearing a black mask, acted like he was struggling to breathe and then uttered the last words of Floyd, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” He then pulled off the mask and rolled his eyes while saying, “Insanity,” as the small crowd of Neanderthals cheered him on.

The outrage and pushback was swift, including from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

“Just flat out wrong,” tweeted Ducey. “Despicable doesn’t go far enough. The final words of George Floyd should never be invoked like this. Anyone who mocks the murder of a fellow human has no place in public office. Period.”

Giants president Farhan Zaidi was even angrier. “I think anyone would have difficulty getting beyond the abhorrent insensitivity of his statement,” Zaidi said. “But even if you can get beyond that – the fact that this guy is condoning behaviour that put our staff and players at risk? Like, seriously. F— that guy. I can’t believe that that guy is a public official in this country. It’s unbelievable.”

Unbelievable in some ways but, sadly, also very believable.

It’s certainly dispiriting to see these types of incidents.

Here’s another one. This one comes out of North Carolina, where racetrack owner Mike Fulp advertised “Bubba Ropes” for sale online days after NASCAR said what looked like a noose had been found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the top series’ only black driver.

“Buy your Bubba Rope today for only $9.99 each, they come with a lifetime warranty and work great,” said the ad.

Ford Porter, a spokeswoman for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, condemned Fulp’s ad.

“This incident of racism is horrific and shameful,” Porter said, according to the Greensboro News & Record. “North Carolina is better than this.”

Culture change is a messy process. Bozos like Phillips and Fulp are doomed to be on the wrong side of history but we will need to deal with them in this fight for social justice.

On the brighter side, players for the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage, two franchises in the National Women’s Soccer league, knelt during the American national anthem, as well as during a moment of silence, before their game on Saturday. They issued a statement as to why.

“We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard. It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone,” according to the statement.

“My grandfather served this country,” tweeted Taylor Nicole Smith, who plays for the OL Reign in the NWSL. “He fought alongside so many brave men for freedom liberty and justice for all. Right now in our country there is a group of ppl not receiving these basic human rights. For those who still don’t understand. It’s not about the flag.

Exactly. It’s about what the flag is supposed to stand for.

May the fight for “liberty and justice for all” continue apace.

Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans (leagueoffans.org), a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.

Ken Reed is a Troy Media Thought Leader. Why aren’t you?

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