Dear Ashly Judd,
I recently read your Facebook Post concerning you attending a University of Kentucky Basketball game and being confronted by a Trump supporter that told you, “We like Trump”. As I read further you indicated that this exchange made you sad and frankly scared. You went on to suggest that college basketball should be a “no politics here” space. And that is where you lost me. There are two issues that you combine- sports and safe spaces- that must be addressed, especially the undertone of privilege.
I appreciate your feminist views and I appreciate that you stand up for those that are marginalized but this view is one written from an angle of pure White privilege. While I can understand you being sad and a little scared that someone told you, “We like Trump”, many Black and Muslim people are being physically assaulted and killed simply based on the color of their skin or what people assume is their religion. My daughter attends the University of Kentucky, the very school for which you cheer and support. While she was protesting on campus, and being called the n-word, had things thrown at her, called a monkey and spat it, there was no safe space. After the election, she called me concerned and fearful about walking to class. There was no safe space. There is no hashtag that I can create that will make my daughter feel safe on campus in a Trump America.
There is nowhere in this country that I can go and turn off my color. There is no hashtag I can create that will make Trump supporters not scream, “Go back to your country”, before shooting and killing an innocent man in a bar. Tell me outside of college sports, what other areas do you suggest should be no politics spaces? The grocery store? The mall? The post office? There is nowhere that I can go that a hashtag will provide a safe space. Even my home is not safe as I wonder what my White neighbors with their Make America Great Again signs are wondering about me. Every day I come home wondering, “Is this the day, like so many others in America, I will find racial slurs spray painted across my home?”
Also, any time a Black person plays a sport, it will always be political. It seems the only time some White people can support a Black person is if they are playing a sport. It is a privilege to be able to simply watch a sports game and as you say, “root for the underdog, wait for the upsets, and believe our team can go all the way.” However, when I watch sports I look beyond what is happening just within the game.
I recall Jesse Owens, who showed the world that Hitler’s claim that White people were the dominant race was futile as he sprinted past ignorance and into history.
Let us not forget Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised the Black Power fist at the Olympics and stood on the podium as gold and bronze medalists, in solidarity with Black people around the world that were suffering under the weight of oppression.
Even our own Kentucky native Muhammad Ali, who defiantly tossed his Olympic gold medal in the Ohio River, after he was refused service in a White only restaurant.
Let’s remember the backlash the greatest tennis player in the world, Serena Williams, received after defeating Maria Sharapova to win the Olympic Gold and breaking out into the Crip Walk. The world saw a dance. We saw us. We saw Serena dancing all over injustice in a sport that says she shouldn’t be there.
Let us not forget the backlash some Black New England Patriots players faced for not agreeing to attend the White House meet and greet after their 2017 Superbowl victory yet, for the most part White America was silent when the captain and quarterback, Tom Brady, did not visit when former President, Barack Obama was in office.
And of course, we cannot forget San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, who boldly took a knee during the National Anthem for NFL games. Even as he was being vilified and ridiculed, Colin said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The list is endless of Black sports players that have used their platform to bring awareness to the suffering, injustice and oppression of Black people. You may see a sport. We see beyond the sport. We see Black athletes that stand with us as we fight against injustice. We see Black athletes showing their prowess beating the system at their own game. We were delighted to see a Black man named Tiger Woods dominating in a sport that has been predominately White. We rejoiced for Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas because the world told them, “Some sports just ain’t for your kind.” We stood on our feet and clapped when Surya Bonaly did a backflip on the ice, even at the expense of being disqualified, because she was showing the world not only can I do this, I am better than you while I do this!
So no, Ashley, sports will never be a “no politics space” for Black people. It will never be a safe space for Black people. Consider this world a gigantic sports arena and know that Black people will always be fighting for justice on and off the court.