Sports Fans Coalition condemns police brutality, racism, and violence. The murder of George Floyd is the latest of a centuries-old list of African-Americans whose lives were taken far too soon. It is time that sports fans take stock on their role in this.
Systemic racism is ingrained in America's laws, economics, culture, and sports. We see it in the way African-American athletes are treated by some coaches, owners, referees, and even fans.
Perpetuated by sports fans, systemic racism has stood in the way of racial progress since the before Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall joined the NFL in 1920. Jackie Robinson faced racial slurs while he took the plate in 1947 from even his own Dodgers fans. Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals at the Olympics despite having polio, made worse by a lack of access to medical treatments in her southern African-American community -- a disparity which persists today. And, most recently, Colin Kaepernick lost his job as a quarterback because of taking a knee to protest police brutality.
These champions of sports and champions of civil rights faced opposition from their country, their teams, and their fans. However, their stories are not unique to athletes of color who compete at all levels of sports. Youth athletes of color who may come from lower-income areas must compete with inadequate protective equipment, making them more prone to injuries such as concussions. College athletes of color get told that sports are the only way they can afford an education and must sign over their rights for the chance to better their socio-economic standing. Professional athletes of color are told to "shut up and play" while their white owners use their platform to advance their beliefs.
The battle for justice does not just happen in state capitols, or the US Congress, or the streets where so many Americans march today. It also happens on the grass, dirt, wood, and ice of America's sports stadiums. In the spirit of the sports and teams that unify us as fans, we must dig deep, turn inward, and be critical about our role in systems of oppression. Only through honest reflection and thoughtful actions we can begin to heal. In that light, Sports Fans Coalition re-commits its efforts to advocate for fans and athletes when the leagues refuse to do so, especially in opposition to racism, police brutality, and violence.
David Goodfriend, Chairman
Habiba Alcindor, Board Member
Dave Zirin, Board Member
Brian Frederick, Board Member
Chris Lewis, Board Member
Mark Walsh, Board Member
Hope Solo, Board Member
Brian Hess, Executive Director