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Walter Ford: It’s progress

The NFL did something it almost never does — admit it was wrong.

“It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”

The NFL has also pledged $250 million over the next 10 years to help fight systematic racism.

Some have said this is hypocritical, looking back at how the NFL handled the Colin Kaepernick/National Anthem kneeling situation just four years ago. And, it is. But, it can also be seen as progress.

NASCAR came out this week and banned the Confederate flag at all of its races and affiliated events.

“The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement on its website. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”

Progress.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred opened the MLB amateur draft on Wednesday by admonishing systematic racism and showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Tonight, I join our 30 club baseball operations officials as they recognize on behalf of our entire industry, that systemic racism and inequality are devastating problems,” Manfred said as executives from all 30 teams held up “BLACK LIVES MATTER: United for Change” signs. “That we can each do more to help. That baseball can do more as an institution. That black lives matter, and that we are united for change. This moment is a call to action, to acknowledge the ills that exist, to show solidarity with the black community in its efforts to end racism and injustice. We want to utilize the platform afforded by our game to be not only allies, but active participants in social change.”

Progress.

The U.S. Soccer Federation Board of Directors voted 604-1 to repeal its ban on kneeling during the National Anthem this week.

“The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe knelt in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of black people and people of color in America. It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter,” USA Soccer said in a statement. “We have not done enough to listen — especially to our players — to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of black and other minority communities in our country. We apologize to our players — especially our black players — staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism. Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.”

Progress.

Most major professional sports organizations have spoken up and/or made financial contributions to help shine a light on the plague of racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which sparked massive protests in cities big and small across the nation and world. Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

The PGA Tour made an especially powerful statement at the beginning of the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday.

At 8:46 a.m. on the first day of the tourney, the Tour’s first since suspending play in March due to COVID-19, Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan stood at the first tee for a moment of silence in honor of Floyd.

“As the PGA Tour commits to amplifying voices and efforts to end systemic issues of racial and social injustices, we have reserved the 8:46 tee time to pause for a moment of silence, prayer and reflection,” Monahan said.

The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and several others have made statements condemning systematic racism and police brutality as well.

The carefully prepared statements, moments of silence, financial donations and pledges to be better, don’t erase the many missteps these organizations have made over the years when it comes to being a force for positive social change, but it’s progress.

END IT WITH A QUOTE

It was 52 years ago when Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a peaceful and powerful statement on the biggest stage they had. The Americans of color had just won Olympic medals for their country and while on the podium, as the National Anthem played, the two raised their fists for human rights.

“It wasn’t done for a malignant reason,” said Smith. “It was only done to bring attention to the atrocities of which we were experiencing in a country that was supposed to represent us.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.


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