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To play or not to play? That is the question for protesting pros

The court sits empty after a postponed NBA basketball first round playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The game was postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks didn't take the floor in protest against racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

If you want your voice to be heard, should you remove the batteries from the back of your bullhorn?

Probably not.

And that makes me ask: Are the pro athletes protesting by not playing promoting — or crippling — their cause? 

We don’t have the space on to fully discuss the highly-complicated issues behind the protests but I will say this: knowing as many cops as I do (including several who aren’t white), I would never paint the majority of law enforcement officers as racist. And I try to keep in mind that a bad cop beating a black man is not necessarily a racist cop beating on a black man.

But racist, bad cops do exist (and too many of them). 

I also believe racism in America is dying but it’s not dying fast enough and isn’t close enough to being on life support for us to declare the battle won. 

So, while I agree that a lot of change is still needed, I disagree with some people about what needs to change and how to bring about the change. The pro athletes no-play protests fall into that last category — because a muted voice can’t change much.

Locally, the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Coyotes didn’t have to make a decision about not playing as they’d already been eliminated from the playoffs.

The NFL season isn’t underway, so the Arizona Cardinals canceled practice as a protest.

Because their season is on, it looked like the Arizona Diamondbacks wouldn’t have the luxury of not making a decision — until the decision was made for them when their erstwhile opponents, the Colorado Rockies, said, “no play!”

Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo said about not playing, “This platform has given us all a chance to make an aggressive statement. And I just hope that it doesn’t stop there.“

I’m confused. Lovullo said he hopes “it doesn’t stop there.” Does he mean he hopes the season doesn’t stop… or does he hope not playing games doesn’t stop? And he mentioned the platform that gave them the chance to make a statement. Does taking away that platform (by not playing and running the risk that people will lose interest) amplify or diminish their voices?

A singer doesn’t gain attention by not singing and actors who don’t act make lousy activists because nobody cares what they have to say. 

Maybe athletes need to look no further for their answer than a man who passed away, right here in the Valley, four years ago. After refusing to go to Vietnam, Muhammad Ali was denied a license to box. He fought to be able to fight again — and won. 

Even though he lost to Joe Fraizer shortly after getting back in the ring, Ali was able to help oppressed Americans win a much bigger fight because he played his sport — which gave him the biggest voice of all.

A voice heard ‘round the world. 

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