From Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson to the St. Louis Rams protesting Darren Wilson’s indictment – or lack thereof – the NFL has been no stranger to controversy this season.
But as we step back and look at the bigger picture, we have to wonder: What does it all mean?
Let’s ask someone who knows more about it than we do.
“I’m looking at three basic things in the interface of sport, race and society,” sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards said on The MoJo Show. “One of them, of course, is the whole issue of domestic violence, which I think really opens the door to a national discussion on what I consider the No. 1 human rights issue in American society today – the status, circumstances and outcomes of women and girls. You’re not going to be able to deal with issues in the African-American community unless you deal with issues of women and girls in that situation.
“If you want to deal with medical care improvement, well, guess who is the first one to notice somebody is sick?” Edwards continued. “Who’s going to take them to the hospital? Who’s going to be there when they come home from the hospital? You got to elevate the status of women and girls. Education: guess who does the home work? It’s typically the mother or grandmother.
“That’s the first thing I’m dealing with. The whole Ray Rice issue, the whole Greg Hardy issue, the whole Ray McDonald issue – they’re all different cases (with) all different levels of involvement. But we have to look at them and understand them.”
We also have to try to understand Ferguson and its aftermath. While some people appreciated the Rams’ hands-up protest – likening it to John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s silent protest in the 1968 Olympics – others were outraged by it. There was a similar reaction to the Miami Heat protesting the George Zimmerman verdict. Some loved it; others hated it.
“There’s always going to be push-back when it comes to sports because people tend to see sport participants as one-dimensional people,” Edwards said. “They come to see you for what you do on the court, on the athletic field, on the golf course – and they really don’t want to see you in any other guise. But they forget that all sports participants are really total human beings. They just happen to do one thing better than anybody else in the world: play basketball, play football, hit a golf ball, hit a tennis ball and so forth.”
Still, once Miami protested – with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and others posing head-down in hoodies – Edwards knew more activism would be coming.
“I knew that that would open the door and then came the Michael Sam situation, (the) Jason Collins (situation) – where athletes tweet their support,” Edwards said. “And now we have this situation with the St. Louis Rams football players, which I am elated about, and I think there will be more. I think you’re going to see hands-up demonstrations at the college level. I think you’re going to see hands-up demonstrations more in the NFL and also in the NBA.”