Stick to sports, they say, and then the real world invades and even the world of sports offers no refuge.
It would be nice to think that sports spur change but more often they splash societal ills across our flatscreens.
Sunday night, LeBron James will play in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. He is one of the greatest players of all time, is attempting to win a second straight NBA title, and has conducted himself as a gentleman and a philanthropist.
In the new America of emboldened racism, this is not enough to keep a subhuman from spray-painting a racial epithet onto James’ house in Los Angeles.
If this were a rare incident, it would be enough to disturb right-minded Americans. But it is not isolated. Stick to sports? You can’t turn on a television without observing how far race relations have to go in our country, or how far they have regressed.
P.K. Subban is a standout defenseman for the Nashville Predators. He is playing in the Stanley Cup Final. It wasn’t long ago, when he played for Montreal, that Boston fans used his name in conjunction with the same word that was painted on James’ house 17,000 times on social media in one day.
Colin Kaepernick, a former Super Bowl starting quarterback who is 29 and threw 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions last year, is out of work. He is better than some starting QBs and most backups in the NFL but he took a knee during the national anthem last year to protest unarmed black men being shot on American streets and is now deemed unemployable by a league that drafted Joe Mixon and handsomely paid Greg Hardy.
My father was a serviceman. He fought on behalf of American ideals, like the First Amendment. He believed that the flag doesn’t celebrate our war heroes; it celebrates that for which they fought. Yet by exercising his right to peacefully protest, Kaepernick became a bull’s-eye for hate.
When he was trying to become an NFL head coach, Tony Dungy used to downplay overt racism among owners and general managers and say, ‘‘They just want to hire someone who looks like coaches who have been successful.”
Dungy was being too kind. Racism can be even more dangerous when its purveyors are shrewd enough to avoid working in a medium other than spray paint.
“If this is to shed the light and continue to keep the conversation going on my behalf, then I’m OK with it,” James said. “My family is safe. At the end of the day, they’re safe and that’s the most important.
“But it just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America. Hate in America, especially for African-Americans, is living every day. And even though that it’s concealed most of the time, we know people hide their faces and will say things about you, when they see you they smile at your face, it’s alive every single day.”
In college, I took a course called ‘‘African-American Literature.” A history buff, I always have been keenly interested in America from the 1860s through the 1960s, when American cops beat American citizens in the streets and sicced attack dogs upon them.
There is a difference between being aware and being targeted. No matter how much I read, I’ll never know what it means to walk down a street in America as a target of prejudicial hate. I’ll never draw suspicion by wearing a hoodie.
In 2017 in the United States of America, where “all men are created equal,” James does.
“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” he said. “And we got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: email@example.com