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.

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail