The conversation regarding race should have already been discussed, concluded and solved, but here we are in 2018, 153 years after slavery was abolished and still, there are racial slurs.
Although the discussion did not begin here, Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, brought the topic to the forefront in sports when he took a knee during the national anthem in the 2017 pre-season. The racism continued when a Missouri bar owner taped Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Kaepernick’s jerseys as a doormat; side-by-side they spell out “Lynch Kaepernick.”
His silent protest was in support of people of color being oppressed in the United States. Kaepernick used his prominence to get a heavily ignored issue into the public’s immediate view to curate change in society.
However, race has been present in sports for almost a century, dating back to Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in the MLB, being pelted with rocks and slurs.
In recent years, these incidents have come back to the forefront.
On Feb. 25, a Cleveland Cavaliers fan taunted San Antonio Spurs guard, Patty Mills. “Hey, Jamaican dog, they want their bobsledder back,” he said, followed by “hey Mills, Jamaica just called, they want their bobsledder back.”
The fan was barred from entering Quicken Loans Arena and his case will be revised and reviewed in a year.
The punishment does not seem to fit the crime. There are heavier fines and repercussions when a sports athlete violates basic rules of the game, but the league fails to take a higher stance on this disgusting act.
Fortunately, Mills was able to take the high-road because his family has been fighting for civil rights in their home country. Mills is the son of a Torres Strait native and an Aboriginal Australian, and his family has been combating racism for generations.
His great-uncle Eddie Mabo is known locally as being the first native Australian to win back the land for his people in 200 years.
These attacks have taken place in multiple sports, and to athletes of different ethnicities.
In October 2016, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim was nearly hit with a beer can at Rogers Centre in Toronto while trying to catch a fly ball. Kim, who is from South Korea, was also allegedly subjected to racial slurs, according to his teammate Adam Jones, who received slurs himself.
Jones, who was enraged and outspoken about the incident, experienced a similar situation in May of 2017. While playing centerfield at Fenway Park, Jones had a bag of peanuts thrown at him, and was called the n-word multiple times.
The Red Sox investigated, and even confirmed that these events did take place.
Jones went on to say that it was not the first time that he experienced racial taunting at Fenway, and he was echoed by Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, who called it the worst park for racial incidents.
Despite the recent spike in these incidents, it’s likely they have always been taking place. The difference now is that players have been more vocal in speaking out against them.
As the year continues, we hope that leagues build more community forums including voices from players, local police, officials and leaders to safely and openly have conversations to understand each other; we need to face racism head on and achieve unity.