Last week, the NFL announced that the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, would be performed before every Week 1 kickoff. The announcement was Commissioner Roger Goodell’s way of reaffirming the league’s official position that black lives matter.
It came four weeks after Goodell vowed to listen to and work with players in their fight for racial equality and to combat “systemic racism.”
For its part the NBA revealed that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” would be painted on the courts of all three arenas the league will use at the Walt Disney World Resort when it resumes the 2019-20 season. In addition, the league approved 29 social justice messages to be displayed on players’ jerseys. According to Deadline:
The reported list of approved social messages includes Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.
Unfortunately, neither league has an especially impressive history of honoring a diversity of opinions when it comes to acknowledging players’ right to speak out for causes they find worthy. In 2017, Robert Jackson of Melbourne, Fla., sent a letter to “Florida Today” — part of the USA Today network — to comment on the NFL’s decision not to force its players to stand for the national anthem. In his letter, he noted the following — shall we say? — lapses in judgment on the part of the NFL, which makes their recent decisions look pretty hypocritical.