Former ESPN host and current writer for The Atlantic, Jemele Hill called on black athletes to stop “entertaining” America because this country does not “value black lives.”
In a column published on Thursday, Hill praised the NBA for canceling this week’s games in protest over the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 27, 2020
“On social media and cable news, some fans and commentators heaped scorn upon the players for walking out in the first place, depicting them as selfish athletes who were only throwing a tantrum for the sake of virtue signaling,” Hill wrote, adding that the typical narrative states that “athletes, because of their social and economic status, are a privileged class with no right to complain.”
Hill added that this narrative is “racist” because “the idea of telling Black athletes—or any prominent Black person—to be grateful is almost as old as racism itself.”
She seems to be ignoring the fact that white athletes and Hollywood stars who feel the need to lecture the public about politics are often told the same thing.
“What critics…ignore,” Hill wrote, “is that the NBA is a predominantly Black league and that just because its Black players are professional athletes, that doesn’t protect them from police violence and harassment.”
She then argued that famous black athletes are in “an ideal position to speak for Black men and women who don’t have the same advantages.”
Circling back to the NBA’s “impromptu strike,” Hill proceeded to describe it as a “historic act.”
“This was a historic act. Black athletes—and some allies of other races—sent the message that America doesn’t get to enjoy their talents if it can’t respect Black people as human beings,” she wrote.
Hill went on to say that “something broke inside these players” after the Blake shooting:
Despite the potential financial risks, the players were right to explore whether they could grab America’s attention by withholding their services. Had the NBA players opted to carry out a long-term strike, just imagine what that might have looked like: They play in cities that depend on the revenue they generate. Perhaps upon feeling the financial strain, officials in those cities might have been more motivated to reimagine their police force.
Perhaps NBA owners might have been so bothered by losing money that they would have used their power and connections to put pressure on the right people to change the status quo. An extended strike also would have put pressure on NFL players to act.
Pro football is by far the most popular sport in America. Nearly 70 percent of its players are Black. If Black NFL players followed the NBA players’ lead, a big chunk of the sports economy would be made contingent on racial progress.
Hill concluded her column with some words of celebration.
“At the very least, this week’s historic disruption shows that Black players should leverage their talent to promote change at every possible opportunity. They’ve tried to sweet-talk America into caring about racial injustice, but the litany continues,” she proclaimed. “When a country doesn’t respect Black lives, it can’t expect Black athletes to hold back their anger.”
Notice that Hill did not provide any examples of the “change” these multi-millionaire athletes actually brought about with their boycott. They shamed America and white people everywhere as racists, but their protests didn’t seem to accomplish anything else tangible outside of that.
In the end, these athletes may just be learning the hard way that America doesn’t really care what they think about anything, and that they lose their relevance as soon as they stop playing their sport of choice.