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If white athletes took a knee after mass shootings, we’d have gun reform

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Mourners visit a memorial to those lost in a shooting at a King Soopers grocery store earlier in the week on March 27, 2021 in Boulder, Colorado. The shooting at the King Soopers Grocery on Monday left ten people dead, including one police officer.

Mourners visit a memorial to those lost in a shooting at a King Soopers grocery store earlier in the week on March 27, 2021 in Boulder, Colorado. The shooting at the King Soopers Grocery on Monday left ten people dead, including one police officer.
Image: Getty Images

The most glaring misconception about white privilege is that some white people believe it angers people of color not to have it. That’s a lie. We’re upset because we have to watch as you waste it, knowing all the good we would do with it if we had it.

For instance, gun control.

Because if white athletes, armed with their fame, notoriety, acceptance, and privilege, decided to take a knee and use their platforms every time a mass shooting took place, then mass shootings wouldn’t be a thing that a generation has become numb to. And while we still don’t know what motivated Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa to start shooting inside of a Colorado grocery store, killing 10 people and a police officer with an AR-15-style pistol modified with an arm brace, I know that if we had tougher gun laws then there’s a chance that it wouldn’t have happened.

Thoughts and prayers don’t stop bullets. However, legislation would make it harder to buy them. Last week’s tragic situation is at least the seventh mass shooting in Colorado over the last 25 years. And besides the comments from the Colorado men’s basketball team, Steve Kerr — a staunch advocate for gun reform — and Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, words were pretty much all that was offered.

But, what if that wasn’t the case. What if white athletes and coaches took a knee. Because in case you haven’t learned by now, kneeling isn’t just a “Black thing.” However, white Republicans and Second Amendment crusaders are usually the ones tripping up potential gun reform legislation at every turn, believing that it’s every American’s right to own an automatic weapon, even though the overwhelming majority have no use for them.

Wait, let me add some context to that last line, as former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler reminded us last year that it’s only an issue when Black people legally carry their weapons in public, which she labeled “mob rule.”

A recent poll discovered that 50 percent of Americans think professional athletes should use their platform to express views on national issues. However, when the percentages were broken down by race and political parties, it became quite clear that white America still refuses to understand and accept why athletes stand up for Black people. And given the history of who most often pulls the trigger, and is killed, in mass shootings, it’s mind-blogging that more white athletes haven’t used the gesture of kneeling to bring constant awareness to one of America’s sins, like racism, so that it remains on the forefront of people’s minds.

And it’s not like “America’’ wouldn’t be receptive. We’ve seen it done before with similar situations. In 2017, J.J. Watt was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated for helping to raise over $37 million for citizens of Houston after the city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. What Watt did for those affected in Houston was incredible. However, the praise he received for his actions was far from the criticisms and initial questions that Colin Kaepernick and Maya Moore faced for doing the exact thing — being of service to someone other than themselves.

There’s only one difference between Watt and Kaepernick and Moore. This is why it’s so important to always “see color.”

Earlier this month, LeBron James’ “More Than A Vote” organization released a new ad campaign focused on Georgia and other states that are creating laws to make it harder to vote, targeting Black people and other communities of color. Last week, Georgia Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon, a Black woman, was arrested for knocking on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s door as he immediately signed the racist bill into law in a closed-door ceremony that will dramatically shorten runoff elections, cut early-voting periods, and prohibit people from taking food and water to voters waiting in line in a state that is notorious for making voters wait at the polls for hours on Election Day.

President Biden called it “sick.” Stacey Abrams said it was “nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”

The move even caused Major League Baseball’s Players Association executive director Tony Clark — a Black man — to announce that players are ready to discuss moving this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta due to Georgia’s new legislation. If the news of discussions about potential actions is causing a stir, just think what could happen in Georgia if the game is moved?

That’s the beauty of kneeling during the national anthem. Because no matter what the catalysts may be for an athlete to take a knee, it occurs during a solemn moment, forcing people to realize that this isn’t the land of the free for millions of Americans, as it so rarely feels like “home.”

Because of George Floyd and the world being stuck in the house due to COVID-19, something potentially changed last year. The symptoms of eternal exhaustion that are caused by racism lit a fuse that set the country on fire. Black athletes play a major role in keeping that fire lit. And while mass shootings aren’t just a “white problem,” just imagine what could be accomplished if white athletes use their privilege to help pen new legislation.

Thoughts and prayers are cute, but the impact of kneeling has proven to be undeniable. 

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