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WRIGHT: Black lives remain undervalued in white America

Recent basketball protests reveal what people value more: justice or entertainment.
Photo by WikimediaRecent basketball protests reveal what people value more: justice or entertainment.

On Aug. 27, ESPN’s "First Take" co-host Max Kellerman said, “Black life has always been cheap in this country.” The context of the conversation was at the heels of the NBA players' protest which led to postponement of NBA games following the attempted murder of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Kellerman has said the same statement many times before, but this time it hit different. While the world ran awry during a pandemic, white America had a chance to sit on the bench and watch how Black Americans played this game called life.

Black lives have and still do run the business of sports in America. Black athletes are the show and have been the show ever since the inception of sports in modern America. Coincidentally (or not) racism runs hand-in-hand with the inception of Black bodies since our arrival in modern America.

As time went on, we saw the “cost” of Black lives fluctuate, which was dependent on how much a white person valued us. Black lives started off free, then began increasing as we had become more “valuable” to anybody who was free.

Bringing us back to today's landscape in American sports, many of those previous sentiments are paralleled today. 

Some of our members, like many other Americans, participate in sports gambling. And as the American sports world began to become evidently more “woke,” I began to see firsthand how I think the white average American sports fan values a Black life.

The shooting and attempted murder of Blake had been a pivotal time in America as a whole. Rumors and rumblings of NBA teams considering not playing in games to show solidarity with the rest of Black America appeared in major sports blogs, applications and social media.

A few high school classmates of mine are in a group chat that started off about our fantasy football league which then manifested into a “sports-centric” group chat to say the least. On Aug. 26, our group chat was silent from the majority of our members besides the three Black men in the chat who had been happily applauding and hoping that teams actually did protest and “boycott” the games that were coming later that day. 

Both teams had not been on the court at 4:15 p.m. as the Milwaukee Bucks were supposed to take the court against the Orlando Magic in game five of their best-of-seven series in the first round of NBA playoffs. The TV coverage showed an empty court and benches of NBA players who were supposed to be playing.

While this is happening, I get a text from our group chat from one of our former classmates who is an avid sports better. It said, "But what are they boycotting," which was followed by another text that said, "Any update on the game."

Those two messages alone proved to me that Black life is not valued much by the everyday white consumers of American sports. His texts came through in concern of his bet being fiddled with on this specific game.

Alongside tweets, the replies in response to the news of the aforementioned game and others in the sports world showed me that no matter what you do for these people, your Black life is not valued when you are not doing what they want.

To finish off with Kellerman's words: “It’s time it starts getting more expensive."

Amir Wright is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in africana studies. His column, "The Black Light," runs on alternate Fridays.

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