Editor’s Column: Capitalism, activism & race in the modern sports world

Aidan Lannom, Sports Editor

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Houston’s new problem:

In recent years, we have seen the power athletes, teams and athletic organizations have when it comes to making progress for social issues in our country. Whether it be the unity NFL players showed when kneeling together for the anthem or NBA players taking a stand against police brutality by wearing clothes that had famous quotes from cases of racial injustice.

However most recently we have seen the exact opposite happen. When Daryl Morey tweeted “Fight for freedom, Stand with Hong Kong“ he immediately faced backlash and possibly jeopardized the NBA’s relationship with China. To confuse matters even more, Morey is the General Manager (GM) of the Houston Rockets, the most supported team in China.

Now, Morey’s job is in jeopardy even though he is considered one of the best GM’s in the league, having accomplished some of the most impressive trades in league history. 

This is where capitalism out ways activism in sports. When athletes and teams have made efforts to help or bring attention to social issues they haven’t just received support, they have had billionaire dollar corporations like Nike completely drive the conversation. 

Now Nike and other companies have been criticized for this behavior before. People have pointed out how they have used athletes causes and social issues to turn a profit whether it be with LGBTQ commercials or their partnership with Colin Kapernick. 

With the Morey situation, no company is going to touch him with a ten-foot pole. No matter how noble his cause, it puts him and anyone associated with him at odds with the Chinese government. China is a massive market for the NBA and athletic wear companies. To show support for Morey would put their business in jeopardy. 

China-based media and businesses have already pulled support from the NBA. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he will not limit the free speech of league employees but people still speculate Morey may lose his position.

The way the NBA decides to handle this will be important for understanding what freedoms league employees actually have and what the NBA will blacklist you for doing.

 

The Penn State Alum:

Twitter was in uproar after two Penn State football players posted a picture of a letter their teammate received from an alum. In the letter the alum spoke about how he wished he and other athletes were more “clean-cut“ like his day and that he should cut his dreadlocks because they were disgusting and ugly. 

When a journalist followed up with the alum he said he did not mean to make any racial or cultural statement just that he “would like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State or Miami guys.“

The player responded in a tweet posting a note he wrote that was extremely professional. He said he forgave the man and wants this to be an example that people of different cultures are still discriminated against. 

His coach also came to his defense, giving a powerful and emotional speech at the start of his press conference. The coach talked about the football he knows brings people together of all cultures. 

Where the issue lies is that not the coach, program, or university has denounced the alum. He has not been banned from games. He committed a clear act of racism that was extremely disrespectful to a young man who is an outstanding student athlete. 

To allow him to make such comments directly to a student without repercussion shows that the university will just allow its student-athletes to be attacked without their support.

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