About that comments section…
Megumi Tamura | Thursday, September 3, 2020
Have you ever found yourself spending more time scrolling through the comments on Instagram than on the actual post itself? That’s what I found myself doing when @thefightingirish posted this, seemingly showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. This was in response to the horrific shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times by the police in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23. The police were called in response to a “domestic incident” and got into an altercation with Blake. As the video — which has garnered millions of views and retweets on social media — shows, it was as Blake was leaning into his car — inside of which his three young children were sitting — when the police shot him seven times in the back. He survived but remains in intensive care and is suffering potentially permanent paralysis from the waist down.
What happened to Jacob Blake is a continuation of a summer of injustice and unrest as America is experiencing a “racial reckoning.” Since the killing of George Floyd in May by the Minneapolis police, there has been an outpouring of frustration and calls for action as millions take to the streets to protest and demand change in systems ranging from policing, education and health to voting, incarceration and housing. While the vast majority of these protests are peaceful, the ones which have caught the most attention of national media, social media and the White House have involved looting, rioting and violence.
Many of the comments under that Instagram post sounded something like this: “I love Notre Dame, but I can’t support this,” “stop supporting a Marxist terrorist organization,” ”disappointed to see this,” and “ND is no longer Catholic if it supports this.” Most of these comments were also coming not from students but from older fans of the Fighting Irish, who seemed upset that Notre Dame would take a stance on what has sadly become a polarizing political issue: the claim that a life matters and no one should be killed for the color of their skin by a system which is supposed to protect and serve all.
All of this, from the Instagram post and its comments to the reckoning which has been occurring over the past few months, has really made me think: why do so many people speak out against and (rightfully) condemn the violence in some of the protests but not also the reason that the protests are happening? Why are people more angered over a post which shows support for the Black Lives Matter movement than about the reason the movement exists in the first place? Should major sports organizations, whether that be at the professional or college level, get “political” or should they, as Laura Ingraham once said, just “shut up and dribble?”
Regarding the first two questions, I think of it as people focusing on the symptoms of an illness rather than the cause. The “illness” in this case is a long history of racial inequity and the continued injustice which plagues our country today that’s made evident in incidents like what happened to George Floyd and Jacob Blake, or the disproportionate effect which COVID-19 has had on minority populations. The symptoms are the boiling over of frustration and anger, and the protests which have sometimes led to violence, the looting of businesses and the destruction of cities. There’s been so much attention placed on these symptoms, but there hasn’t been as strong of a pushback on the illness.
What about the third question: should sports and politics mix? Should the athletics page for Notre Dame post something that can be interpreted as political? Maybe the reason all of those Fighting Irish fans were so upset by that post is because sports is often viewed as a respite from our daily lives, which are already so bombarded with the messiness of politics and social issues. However, I don’t think politics and sports can ever really be separated. They are two aspects of American life so prominent in the public realm that it’s hard for them not to mesh. Both sports and politics represent a sort of reflection of society: how people form groups with which they identify, values, shared experiences, victories and losses, loyalty. That’s why, in response to what happened to Jacob Blake, several NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS teams decided to sit out their games, and the NBA agreed to turn arenas into polling places in the upcoming election.
Perhaps that Instagram post was just meant to show support for Black students. Maybe they weren’t meaning to make a political statement, but all it takes is a brief scroll through the comments section to make it clear that even the possibility of politics meshing with sports turns ugly fast.
Megumi Tamura is a freshman in the Gateway Program. She is originally from Ridgewood, New Jersey and enjoys going to museums, watching political debates, and eating Jersey bagels. She can be reached at [email protected] or @megtamura on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.