Because of the increasing number of state laws that compromise the constitutional rights of Blacks, women, and other marginalized groups, the NAACP doesn’t want free agents in professional sports to sign with Texas-based teams. But for this fight, bringing more athletes, not fewer, to the state should be the goal.
The NAACP is no stranger to jumping into the fray when it comes to fighting for social justice reform, or pushing back on legislative agendas that attack it.
So it’s no surprise that the NAACP has made its voice heard in the state of Texas where state leaders have made a priority to enact legislation that increases restrictions on voting rights as well as abortion laws.
But the NAACP has taken it a step further, reaching out to various professional player unions to encourage them to encourage their members who are soon-to-be free agents, to take their talents somewhere else besides Texas.
“We are now pleading with you—if you are a free agent and are considering employment in Texas, look elsewhere,” read a statement signed by NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “The Texas government will not protect your family. Demand that Texas owners invest in your rights and protect your investments. Texas is not safe for you, your spouse, or your children. Until the legislation is overturned, Texas isn’t safe for anyone.”
The NAACP has the right idea when it comes to strategizing on ways to combat the legislative firestorm in the state of Texas which has compromised the constitutional rights of Blacks, women and marginalized groups in the state.
But this approach that they’re proposing is not the way to do it.
What the NAACP wants to see is a movement—the kind that can bring about the kind of life-altering, systemic change so many have been calling for recently. That kind of change has to involve a coalition-based approach with an abundant supply of shareholders in the cause who are invested in wanting to see and do better, for Texas.
That’s why the idea of encouraging free agent athletes to stay away rather than come and support the movement for change is counterproductive. In fact, the NAACP should be doing just the opposite—well aware of the potential impact of high-profile athletes and their high-profile platforms can have on the political process.
Look no further than the state of Georgia to see how impactful athletes can be to bring about significant political change. The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream was the catalyst that jump-started Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign in 2020 that was polling in single digits before they took up his cause. Their support was a game-changer in propelling him to becoming the first Black senator in the state’s history.
Their support not only fueled his campaign, but it struck a chord with other athletes in the WNBA as well as other sports, creating a tsunami of support that was yet another reminder of how athletes have become more outspoken in their political affiliations with social justice causes.
And while we don’t hear nearly as much about what athletes are doing along social justice lines now as we did a few months ago, don’t get it twisted.
Just because the cameras and notepads focused on social justice aren’t as abundant as they were a few months ago, that doesn’t mean the work isn’t still being put in by athletes who in many instances, remain just as committed to pushing through social justice barriers.
Athletes like Dallas Wings star Satou Sabally have shown a willingness to push back on the systemic issues that have negatively impacted Black lives, evident by her being the youngest player named to the WNBA’s inaugural Social Justice Council.
Should she ask to be traded because the laws in Texas aren’t to her liking?
Of course not.
If anything, Sabally needs allies, the kind that can bring added attention to the issues in the state, utilizing a grander platform to inform others and in doing so, expand the base of support to combat the legislative issues that will impact voting rights—an issue that is near and dear to the hearts of many Blacks in this country.
I love the fact that the NAACP is putting a voice to this cause. It is indeed a fight worth fighting for. But in order to be successful, it’s going to take the efforts of many inside and outside of the state of Texas which is why the need to bring more allies into the fight like professional athletes—not less—should be encouraged.