FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sports is Life, Life is Struggle

On July 9, the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx wore T-shirts at their home game seeking change in the wake of the fatal shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police. In response to the players’ stance, four off-duty Minneapolis police officers who were working security at the game walked off the job. The team’s black warm-up shirts said: “Change starts with us: Justice and Accountability.” The back of the shirts featured the names of Castile and Sterling, the Dallas Police Department shield, and the words “Black Lives Matter.”

At the July 12 major league baseball All-Star game, one of the members of the Canadian group The Tenors, Remigio Pereira, raised a sign that said “All Lives Matter” and changed a line of the Canadian national anthem the group was singing to: “We’re all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great.”

At this critical moment in this Olympic year, we should remember one of the most important sports protests ever. I wrote the following early in 2016:

Brett Musburger has been a fixture on the television sports landscape for decades, making millions and, as a sideline, appearing in movies such as Cars 2 and Rocky II.

It was not always so. Musburger first made a name for himself in 1968 as a columnist for the Chicago American. When John Carlos and Tommie Smith took to the victory stand in Mexico City at the Olympics and thrust their black-gloved fists in the air as a gesture of protest, there was a firestorm of media criticism in the United States. At the head of the line stood cub reporter Brent Musburger. Rather than commend the athletes for their courageous stand or for doing it in Mexico, a country that welcomed fugitive slaves when the country Carlos and Smith ran for was hunting slaves down with dogs and guns, Musburger attacked them as “a pair of black-skinned storm troopers.”

Sports journalist Dave Zirin searched for Musburger’s full column and, after a lot of digging, found it. The headline is “Bizarre Protest By Smith, Carlos Tarnishes Medals.” Despite seeing what they did as ‘bizarre,’ Musburger doesn’t once address why Smith and Carlos did what they did or quote them directly. He does find time to mock them repeatedly. He describes Smith and Carlos as “juvenile,” “ignoble,” and—this actually is bizarre—”unimaginative.” In describing a scene of Carlos trying to defend their actions, Musburger writes, “Perhaps it’s time 20-year-old athletes quit passing themselves off as social philosophers.”

Although in 2008 ESPN gave Carlos and Smith its Arthur Ashe Courage Award, saying simply “They were right,” Musberger has yet to apologize or even acknowledge what he wrote.

In 2008, Sports Illustrated wrote: “While their gesture was everywhere described as a ‘black power salute,’ both men beg to differ. “The focus of the Olympic Project For Human Rights,” Smith writes, was ‘human rights, not civil rights, nothing to do with the Black Panthers or Black Power—all humanity, even those who denied us ours.’”

As we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, a country torn apart by inequality and where there have been massive protests over building stadiums instead of feeding people, we note that when Brent Musburger attacked Smith and Carlos he was actually attacking all of us. As an aging broadcaster, the Olympics in Brazil may be Musburger’s last chance to publicly apologize for his actions and show that sports is more than a paycheck to him. Otherwise, history will write his epitaph the way he leaves it.

More articles by:

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

June 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Divest From the Business of Incarceration
W. T. Whitney
Angola in Louisiana: Proving Ground for Racialized Capitalism
Susan Babbitt
Assange and Truth: the Deeper (Harder) Issue
Kenn Orphan
Humanity vs. the Rule of Law
Mateo Pimentel
Why on Earth a Country of Laws and Borders?
Michael T. Klare
The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China
Howard Lisnoff
The Outrageous Level of Intolerance is Happening Everywhere!
Vijay Prashad
The People of India Stand With Palestine
RS Ahthion
Internment Camps for Child Migrants
Binoy Kampmark
Rocking the G7: Trump Stomps His Allies
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Lawrence Wittner
Getting Ready for Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Women Protest After Being Told by Turkish-Backed Militias to Wear the Hijab
Dean Baker
When Both Men and Women Drop Out of the Labor Force, Why Do Economists Only Ask About Men?
Bruce Lerro
Big Brother Facebook: Drawing Down the Iron Curtain on Yankeedom
June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail