For decades, athletes have used sports as a tool to address social and political issues. From Muhammad Ali’s Vietnam War resistance to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, professional athletes have risked their careers and livelihoods to uplift and raise awareness to the plight of marginalized groups. Oftentimes, superstar athletes, including Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins, are the victims of social injustice and racism.
During an interview with EBONY, Bleacher Report host Taylor Rooks discussed how racism in sports is often coded and subtle. “Racism is something that is incredibly alive and just because it isn’t blatant like someone saying the N-word doesn’t mean it’s not as apparent. A lot of racism that is damaging is the stuff that’s subtle.”
Offering an example, Rooks explained, “The way that we have coded language when we talk about certain Black athletes are so passionate on the field. Why can Odell Beckham Jr. not do this but Tom Brady can?”
Going further she added, “Even if we’re talking about a Black quarterback, we want to say that he is athletic, but it’s never that he’s smart. The Black quarterback could be just as smart as any of the White quarterbacks but that’s not the first thing that comes to our mind because so many things have been drilled into us like code and other words, so while it is so important that they should not be saying the N-word to players on the court, there is a lot of other racism that we have to attack that we’re ignoring because it isn’t so blatant.”
Earlier this year, Kaepernick reached an undisclosed settlement in his collusion suit against the NFL. The end of dispute with the league left many people wondering if the quarterback will hit the football field in the future. Rooks said that while she “hopes” Kaepernick “plays in the NFL again,” she recognizes that he “is a symbol of something bigger than football.”
“To always bring the conversation back to football with Kaepernick almost does his cause an injustice because it’s not just about kneeling. It’s about what that kneeling represents,” she said. “I hope that he plays in the NFL, but most importantly, I hope the message he wants us to hear is heard.”
Rooks’ Take It There with Taylor Rooks Bleacher Report show airs every Wednesday. Click here for more information.
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Jasmine Washington is a beauty-obsessed journalist by day and a trap music connoisseur by night. A lifelong New Yorker, she got her start as an intern at the now-defunct Juicy Magazine. Jasmine joined the EBONY.com team as a writer, penning daily stories on all things Black culture and entertainment.