Sunday, August 28, 2022

Once The Game Ends, A Social Conscience

We'll assume, as the two colleges involved have, that most of the relevant facts of this incident are as thus far reported. In a state in which people famously oddly abstain from coffee, alcohol, and voting Democratic. The Washington Post has reported

A spectator was banned from Brigham Young sporting venues after a Black player on Duke’s volleyball team became the target of racial slurs during a game Friday at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah. Duke’s next match was relocated because of the incident.

The incident was first reported by Lesa Pamplin, an attorney in Fort Worth, who tweeted that her goddaughter, Duke outside hitter Rachel Richardson, was called a racial slur “every time she served” during a match between Duke and BYU on Friday. Pamplin also said Richardson, a sophomore from Ellicott City, Md., who is the only Black starter on the team, was “threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus.”

Richardson’s father, Marvin, told the Salt Lake Tribune that a spectator in the BYU student section repeatedly shouted the slur but was allowed to remain at the event, even after Duke players complained to referees. He said a police officer was later placed on the Duke bench.

Do you know who else was allowed to remain at the event? The players from Duke University, although they were not given a vote.  It would have taken a little courage but someone of authority- the coach, the athletic director, perhaps even the university Dean- could have pulled the players from the court. If a message against racism or bigotry- or, specificall,y racial slurs- needed to be sent, that would have had the greatest impact, especially because it would have been immediate.

Instead, Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King said "First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes. They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play."

Ms. King is sufficiently woke that she pleads for an "anti-racist" environment, yet did nothing to respond in real time to apparent bigotry.  We don't know whether she was informed of the situation during the game. If not, she should have been; that's why God invented cell phones.  Person or persons at Duke University failed.

Admittedly, at the moment of crisis, failure is an option. However, given an opportunity to think about it

NBA superstar LeBron James voiced his support for Richardson replying to Pamplin's tweet with, "@LesaPamplin, you tell your Goddaughter to stand tall, be proud and continue to be BLACK!!! We are a brotherhood and sisterhood! We have her back. This is not sports."

Sorry, LeBron. This is sports; it is precisely sports.  Given the choice between condemning egregious behavior as it occurred or continuing the sporting event, individuals of any authority decided the show must go on.  The environment that day did not successfully "promote equality and fair play" but, what the heck, there is a game to be won (or lost).

Additionally, even without James' urging, Rachel Richardson will "continue to be BLACK!!!" She really has no choice, just as those of are white have had no choice. If James meant something else- perhaps "continue to speak out against racism"- he needed to say so. Otherwise, we are left with a superstar urging a victim of bigotry not to change her race. Being constructive is a better option.

This event may lead to something positive. More likely, King Solomon's observation "there is nothing new under the sun" will be vindicated, and that includes the dominion of sports.


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