I had the good fortune to attend game 3 of the World Series on Friday Night. After the 6th inning, the public address announcer asked everyone in the building to stand and hold a sign reading “Stand Up To Cancer”. We could write the name of someone we know who has been affected by cancer on the sign, and display it for the crowd and television. It was a collective acknowledgement of the devastation of cancer and the fight we are all in. As I looked around the building, it was a unifying moment, a refreshing scene in present day professional sports, everyone coming together. This is the type of community involvement that sports should embrace; cancer awareness, the United Way, stay in school, domestic violence. Everyone can come together for these causes. Issues are solved best when we are united, but they are exacerbated when we are divided.
For the past four months at sporting events, we have been witnessing the type of demonstrations that divide our country and drive many fans away from watching the games. These demonstration disrespect America, disrespect our soldiers, vilify over half the population. They align with certain political organizations that pit one race against the other, that seek to dismantle vital institutions of our country and western culture, not only our political and economic systems, but other institutions such as religion and family.
Organizers of these demonstrations would argue that standing up against police brutality should be a unifying cause. Yes, I believe there are just as many people against police brutality as they are against cancer or domestic violence. So why does one cause bring unity and other brings division? The rhetoric, the posturing, the politicization of the cause has created a division where there really should not be one. Does anyone believe that police brutality is a good thing, or that cops should be able to kill innocent citizens with impunity? No. So, it should be a cause we can all stand up together to stop. But police brutality is being used to push a larger political agenda, and that creates division, and that division works against solving the problem of police brutality. People begin to realize that police brutality never was the issue to begin with, and solving it was never really the goal.
The people organizing Stand up Too Cancer, did not hijack the National Anthem or disrespect the American Flag or perform other divisive gestures to bring awareness to their cause. Their goal was to unite, so their actions and their language did just that, unite people around their cause. They brought everyone together because they asked everyone to think of a person or people in their lives who have died or battled cancer. They made it personal for each and every one of us. This was an inclusive moment because the organizers of this movement understand that unity is what will defeat cancer, so their message, their language and their demonstration was one of unity.
But, if the goal is not to unite the country, but to tear down the country, you use rhetoric and actions which divide the country. The other recent political demonstrations at professional sports events were designed to divide and that’s what they did, divide. And then the organizers used the division they created as evidence to prove their charges against the foundation of this country, i.e. systemic racism.
If the true goal was to stop police shooting of unarmed innocent people, then the best way to accomplish that would be to use language and provide examples that everyone could identify with. Instead of disrespecting the National Anthem and the American flag, two symbols that many Americans hold in high regard, use a non-divisive, more inclusive platform to bring awareness to your cause. Instead of the divisive Black Lives Matter moniker, they would have served the cause against police shootings much better by calling their organization All Lives Matter. That is a name that all people can identify with. Instead of only showing examples where black people have been shot by police, show examples of people of all races who have been shot by police, considering that twice as many white people are killed by police than black people, and just as many Hispanics are killed by police as black people. Everyone reading this can recognize the names, Breanna Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake. Can anyone name a white person or a Hispanic person who has been killed by police? Most could not, even though whites and Hispanics are killed more often or just as often as black people.
This is no way an attempt to diminish or disregard the tragedy of innocent black people who have been killed by police officers. That is real and it happens. This is a call for unity, so we, as a nation, can stand up against the unlawful killing of all innocent citizens by police officers, not just those of certain races. And this will only happen when the language, the demonstrations and the examples are inclusive of all people.
Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He is a frequent contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.