Since the initial police brutality protest during the National Anthem by Colin Kaepernick, athletes in every sport imaginable have found their own way to call attention to the things our country continues to ignore.
When several of the NHLs Black players were kicking around the idea of kneeling in protest, I had the feeling that many of couldnt go as hard as the NFL players have since there is roughly only 30 of them.
When then-Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown raised his fist during the National Anthem right before a game, I saw it as a ballsy move. Hockey has a shortage of diversity, and the vitriol that Brown and his wife received via social media reflected that.
JT Brown, of the Tampa Bay Lightning, becomes the first NHL player to demonstrate during a hockey game. His father played 7 years in the NFL
Earlier this month, Brown was released by the Lightning. He was later picked up by the Anaheim Ducks. I have to wonder if Brown had went as hard as Kaepernick, would a team have given him a shot?
After all, he did a ride along with the Tampa Police Department after the fact, which made him seem less threatening than many of the NFL players.
Since Predators defenseman P.K. Subban has made a name for himself in Nashville, he has endeared himself to the community. One of the ways hes done that was through a program called Blueline Buddies, a program where he brings kids from the community to Predators games with local police officers. His hope is to get kids to look at the officers in a positive light.
“I think it’s important for athletes to set a tone in a way that we’re looking to build bridges,” Subban told NHL.com in an October interview. “That doesn’t take away from anybody’s right to do what they want to do or how they want to exercise their rights as an American citizen, but I think it’s really important for us to be role models in terms of building bridges and being a part of the solution to social issues and different things that go on in our community.”
Subban went on to say that one of his close friends is a police officer and he wants to build dialogue between cops and the community.
The NHL offseason is approximately three months-a crucial time for some players to hit the golf course, travel the world and take a long-needed break away from the ice. For Montreal Canadiens superstar P.K. Subban, it’s about family, community and charity.
“Our law enforcement, these are people that leave their houses and may not come back home at the end of the night,” the former Norris Trophy winner said. “That’s the job that they have, so to make them feel good, and to also be able to help underprivileged youth that don’t get an opportunity like everyone else, that come from broken homes, it’s a win-win.”
Both gestures were seen as wholesome, and many pro-police supporters viewed Brown and Subbans efforts as, see, we arent so bad. And the people in the community arent so bad either.
I hope that Brown and Subban are aware that they are being used.
What has transpired with these community events is problematic in nature. More importantly, it absolves the pro-police supporters of a culture that puts black and brown folks in the crosshairs of state-sponsored violence.
After all, many of these folks will say If you dont support the police, or back the blue, that means you support criminals. They want to draw a line in the sand whereas they do not want to answer for state violence inflicted by police culture on black and brown folks.
Until any critique of the police isnt viewed as being anti-police, and in some cases, anti-white, eating a hot dog with a police officer during a hockey game wont change a mentality that can turn one of those kids into a hashtag with one bullet if that same officer is in fear of the people on his beat.
I hope theres more to these events. History tells us that there wont be.
When I see these events, I think of when one of my former colleagues quoted a retired Chicago Police officer in a story about police misconduct.
You have [officers] who have never seen a black person, never went to school with a black person, never lived around a black person, but then theyre assigned to a black neighborhood. And that black neighborhood is such a crime-infested area, its totally different from what they come from. Sometimes they can misjudge a persons character because they begin to look at everybody the same, former Chicago Police Officer Richard Wooten said in a 2012 Chicago Reporter story called Abusing the Badge.
I look at all of this as someone who grew up with police officers and activists as family members. Some of my cousins and uncles were members of the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers. You could say I had a front row seat to a lot of conversations about Black life in America. In fact, one of my uncles who was member of the Black Panthers went on to become a Chicago Police officer.
While some see what Brown and Subban are doing as noble, I see it as the equivalent of shooting a mid-range jump shot when the lane was wide open for a layup or a slam dunk, both of which are high percentage shots. In this case, neither of them went as hard as they could have.
Perhaps they caved to societal pressure or the demands of hockey culture.
Subban and Brown ought to know that theyre being used as a ruse by people who have no interest in building bridges.
A month after promising not to raise his fist during the National Anthem again, JT Brown is continuing community outreach and partnering with local law enforcement.
All one has to do is read the police blogs, Blue/Police Lives Matter Facebook fan pages and the comments section of any story having to do with Chicago violence, along with any story mentioning Kaepernick.
Noted cultural critic James Baldwin said it best when it comes to building the bridges like Subban and Brown are trying to do.
I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.