Honoring MLK through sports

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time of remembrance of our storied past and of hopeful aspiration for our future, especially as we experience social turmoil in our nation. Martin Luther King Jr. came from humble beginnings, born Jan. 15, 1929 at 501 Auburn Avenue, a home certainly fit for the upbringing of a king. When I think of who King was, I think of someone who is heartbreakingly mortal. A proponent of an ideology of equality that sought to rock the world. Yet he, like many others, was killed by the ideology he sought to eradicate.

I once had the opportunity to visit the Lorraine Motel where King was shot and killed. Despite the reverence of the ground surrounding the motel, the motel itself is surprisingly humble. Garnished with seafoam green doors, recently replaced windows and beige walls with a light brown trim, it is nothing impressive to gaze at. However, it serves as a reminder that has become increasingly important since his death. We are constantly reminded of King’s message of equality by the deaths of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, and everytime the civil rights of others are violated. Martin Luther King Jr. not only stood in support of the advancement of the black community, but of every oppressed community. In remembrance of this day, I wanted to highlight the athletes that most exemplify King’s message .
At this point, we all should recognize the name Colin Kaepernick, the man who was refused a roster spot in the NFL for his peaceful protest of kneeling during the national anthem. The right of protest that has consistently been upheld in the supreme court since its foundation was denied to a rising star in the NFL out of fear that it may upset viewers. The NFL put up a front that they were trying to make strides towards promoting equality, but instead stood against Kaepernick and his message when faced with it.

One of my favorite quotes regarding civil rights comes from the great John Lewis when he spoke on the Edmund Pettus Bridge only months before his passing. He said, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble and help redeem the soul of America. “This raises the question of how we get into, “good trouble.” How do we pursue the advancement of civil rights in a world marked by inequality? How do we be peaceful in a nation scourged by violence? These are difficult questions to answer and again I believe we can find answers through an examination of the sports world, specifically the unity sports leagues have brought about throughout the world. During the 2020 NBA playoffs, following the shooting of Jacob Blake, sports leagues across the world responded by declaring that the best way to pursue justice would be refusing to take the floor, and so they did. In a magnificent display of unity and power, games from every professional sports league in America were postponed. Protesters showed a similar level of unity, marching in cities across the country in the midst of a pandemic, an act of bravery and unity similar to the civil rights movement King once led.

A little known fact, often omitted from discussions of King because of its relative unimportance, is that he was an avid baseball fan. He was a fan of the Dodgers and was especially enamored with Jackie Robinson who had broken the color barrier in baseball when King turned 18. He and his siblings played baseball, basketball and football as children. King, like us, was remarkably human, a man who took his fragile humanity and created ripples in the fabric of society because of a dream. We all have a dream of a more equal world, it is our responsibility to make that dream a reality.