This week I saw headlines that stirred mixed emotions for me. As a sports fan, I am excited that I can now continue practicing social distancing while rocking a Lakers or 49ers face covering. I also read, according to the Associated Press, NBA players will be allowed to return to team training facilities as of Friday, provided that their local governments do not have a stay-at-home order prohibiting such movement still in place as a part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As African American Male, I am concerned about what’s to come over the next few weeks. The first time I wore a mask in public was in February, so the weather was obviously cooler. We try to shop once a week, as early as possible, and I go alone so that my wife can be prepared to wipe down and store the groceries when I return. Since it was cold outside, I pulled my hood over my head and my wife took it right off. “You CAN NOT walk out of here looking like that!” I looked at her and said, “Even if I don’t wear the hood, I think the mask makes me look more dangerous.”
In that moment I was reminded of what it means to be a minority in this country. States across the country are pushing to get the economy going again. Being self-employed, I understand the argument and know that we have to open the economy at some point. However, at a time when our country should be more unified than ever to face this common threat, my wife and I are still having to consider how to be safe as a black man in public while trying to protect my family and community from the coronavirus.
This disease is already ravaging communities of color, particularly black communities across the country. According to the CDC, African Americans make 30% of the cases despite accounting for just 13% of the population. It’s even more alarming when you consider that the data is probably incomplete. Based on that fact alone, there should be policies put in place immediately to address the racist structures that prevent FULL access to healthcare, education, employment, and the other essentials for every American to mitigate susceptibility to severe health and economic consequences. This is good for everyone, not just African Americans. Unless I’m confused, I thought it was “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But if that were really true, then black communities wouldn’t still be recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
We are all in this game of life together. One court. One team. One Championship. One Community. It’s about time, NO it has to be time, for the officials to call the game fair. I’m reminded of the scene in Remember the Titans during the Northern Virginia Regional Championship, when Coach Yoast looked at his daughter then told the official, “You call this game fair, or I’ll go to the papers. I don’t care if I go down with you, but before God I swear I’ll see every last one of you thrown in jail.” In the scene I'm referencing, Coach Boone was screaming his head off and it did not persuade the officials one bit. This country needs all of our Coach Yoast’s to get off the sideline and start demanding the game be called fair. If you have the privilege to serve in federal, state, or local government and make laws, call the game fair. If you have the privilege to influence policy, call the game fair. If you have the privilege to protest on the steps your state’s capital while armed to demand we open the economy without fear of being arrested or worse (I firmly believe this is one of the most extreme examples of privilege), then demand that we open the economy but do so in a way that is fair and gives us all a fighting chance to recover from this health and economic crisis.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
I am a lifelong Laker fan and a fan of the NBA. I never came close to being a NBA player and I don’t particularly like going to live games, but the policies enacted and the actions taken under Adam Silver’s leadership, still invokes a sense of fellowship which by definition is Community. I think David Stern will always be considered the GOAT of commissioners, but Silver will be in that conversation just like Kobe and LeBron will be with Jordan.
Side Bar: I’m not a fan of Jordan but do respect him as the NBA’s GOAT. That said, how next level are you to have one name status with your first and last name. Only other cat I can think of like that is Barack Obama. Dope.
I do not agree with everything the NBA does as an organization, but perfection is not the goal because by my faith perfection can only be found in Jesus Christ. We are at a pivotal point in this country’s history, and there is so much more at stake than just salvaging the NBA season or being able to rock a Lakers mask to the grocery store. Americans, especially our black and brown teammates, are dying while so many more are putting their lives at risk to protect us all. So make no mistake about it, we will ALL lose if the Coach Yoast's, and you know who you are, don’t have a change of heart and demand that policy makers call the game fair for “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
If we make our recovery about people and not profit, the economy will open and recover the way it’s suppose to because we all will operate knowing the policies being put in place are done so to keep us all safe.
George Hill of the Milwaukee Bucks said it well, "The world is bigger than just NBA fans. To our fans, it will be exciting to get the season back, to get it up and going and get something to watch on TV.
"But if this is the cost for safety and health, what we have to ask is, 'Is it worth it? Is it worth putting yourself on the line, putting your family and kids on the line to make a couple more dollars?' For me, personally, no.
"I didn't grow up with money and I don't define my life by money. I define my life around happiness, being safe, being able to enjoy life and live this life for a long time."
Be well and stay safe!