Showing posts with label activism in sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label activism in sports. Show all posts

9.04.2016

thank you, colin kaepernick!

Another awesome athlete protest that I have no time to write about. I can only thank Colin Kaepernick for his courage.

Joy of Sox speaks for me: To Mookie Betts (And Others): The Right To Protest Has Nothing To Do With The Military.

8.20.2016

solidarity from scotland to palestine via soccer

At a football (soccer) match between the Scottish Celtic team and an Israeli team, Hapoel Beersheba, hundreds of Celtic fans defied Scottish law to show their solidarity with Palestine and protest the Israeli occupation.

Mondoweiss reports:
There could be serious consequences for Celtic thanks to the protest, carried out in front of Israelis themselves. Fines and closures of their fans seating sections are possible, under UEFA rules. And a 2012 Scottish law against provocative political speech at sporting events makes the flag display an arrestable offense, although authorities reportedly did not take the offending fans into custody. There were dozens of them, photographs show.

Although the flag politics of the region are contrarian, the feelings of political solidarity are real.

“Since at least the late 80’s Palestine flags have been seen at Celtic Park and Celtic fans have shown their support for the Palestinians. Celtic fans have always had a radical history with support for Irish resistance to British rule and it is from there that support for Palestine stems. Also following support for Palestine among other football and sports fans and figures,” reads a Facebook page called Celtic Fans for Palestine, with about 3,300 members.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) will weigh what could happen, but it might involve the closing of some of the stands in the stadium for a Champions league game, writes Neil Cameron in the Herald, a Scottish paper, in an opinion piece chiding protesters for risking the forfeiture of other fans tickets. European football carries out collective punishment against fans, apparently.
Watch this beautiful video from AJ+.

2.13.2014

read dave kopay's open letter to michael sam

Did I celebrate Michael Sam's coming out on Facebook and Twitter, and forget to mention it on wmtc?? Ack! Social media run amok!

The news that a top NFL prospect has come out as gay in advance of the draft is electrifying. The support for Sam among NFL players is awesome. At first, there was a conspicuous silence among NFL owners, but Giants owner Steve Tisch and Dolphins owner Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have stepped up. Perhaps more will follow.

Here's an excerpt from an open letter to Michael Sam from Dave Kopay, a former NFL player who came out as gay after he retired.
Not only am I excited for you, I am excited for the NFL. I know the SEC is thanking its lucky stars that a player like you has succeeded and developed, and it would be a significant thing for the entire sports world and for you to continue on your path in the National Football League. But know that now that you are "publicly out" as a gay man you must focus on doing your job and don't let any naysayers bring you down. You are no wallflower and you can handle whatever crap comes your way. You will bring it like you never have before. For a moment, let's just remember how far we have all come.

When I first attended college in 1960, the University of Missouri was only three years into having its first black football player. It was a school where the Confederate flag was still flown for touchdowns. Many SEC schools were still years behind accepting black players. "No Negroes allowed," they said. This got my blood boiling and I can only imagine how so many of my teammates -- both black and white -- at the University of Washington reacted on seeing those words.

I entered college as a high school three-sport letterman, somewhat of a gifted athlete compared to most high school players, and got by on my natural athletic ability. Unlike you, I was not a naturally "tough" guy. I certainly had no idea the toughness it would take to really play on a team that had just won two Rose Bowls. I started my sophomore year and, as I had pledged a fraternity, got the attention of a particular pledge brother, Ray, who would become the love of my life. But in those days I was part of the invisible world. We could never talk about our love for each other let alone how we made love. As a junior, after I had not played to the standards of toughness my coaches required, I got benched. I pledged that I would rise back to the top and I did, by playing 48 minutes a game, making some league honors and getting elected co-captain of our Rose Bowl team as a senior. Ray became a Marine Captain and was killed in Vietnam. We could never talk about anything dealing with our love for each other, but at least for a moment I was to know love and what a wondrous thing it is.

I tell you this to alert to the fact that there are those out there that will get in your way to succeed or to love as you see fit. I was in Green Bay in 1972 when I got the news of Ray's death. I told coach Dan Devine that I had a friend killed in Vietnam and that I wanted to go to his funeral in Seattle. He strongly objected. We normally had Mondays off, with a light practice on Tuesday and I told him I must go, and I would be back for practice from Seattle either Tuesday or Wednesday. I couldn't believe he would object me going to honor a dear friend who had just given his life for his country. I went to Ray's funeral and I was back for practice. I was cut from the squad the next year.

2.07.2014

an olympics for every protestor, and rainbow flags from canada... but not from rob ford

I started compiling my usual "why I can't watch the Olympics" post, when I read Dave Zirin... and stopped writing.
At every Olympics, you can cue the complaints, getting in the way when all we’re trying to do is enjoy a good luge.

Yet it took a visionary like Vladimir Putin, a man with the pecs to match his steely will, to finally figure out a way to unite the world and make the Olympics something for everybody. Everyone, thanks to Putin, has something to care about during the 2014 Sochi Games.

If you are a person with even the mildest concern for anything outside the five feet in front of your face, then this Olympiad is for you. No matter your cause, no matter your passion, Vladimir Putin has given you something to perk up about.
Something for everyone: LGBT rights, labour, the environment, genocide, cruelty to animals, free speech. Read "The 2014 Sochi Olympics: Something For Everyone!" on Edge of Sports, or at The Nation. It's truly priceless.

I was happy to hear that many Canadian cities have raised the Pride flag over their City Halls, to protest the homophobia and persecution of LGBT people around the Sochi Games. Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, went a few steps further.
Of course, Mayor Crack continues to embarrass himself and Toronto. Seriously, does anyone actually say "sexual preference" anymore?

In The Globe and Mail, Brenda Cossman reminds us that the Olympics have always been political, and has some suggestions on how we can push the issue.

And from the wmtc archives, my Olympics disgust: Beijing, Vancouver, and generally, London.


8.15.2013

sports without war: canada out of aghanistan, and military out of our sports

I have written a bit about the use of professional sports as a vehicle for war propaganda and militarism, such as when the Harper Government used the Olympic torch relay to promote its war in Afghanistan. My partner Allan has covered this ground more consistently, since he writes a sports blog. See, for example, his "Thoughts Prompted By The Red Sox Foundation's Association With "Run To Home Base"" and "The National Anthem And The Idea Of Respect", among others. These are mostly from a US perspective, since that's mostly where Major League Baseball is played.

Whether it's endless rounds of "God Bless America," (nationalism being the first stop on the road to war), the honouring of veterans who are always deemed "heroes," or in one case, a plan to distribute dog-tags to kids attending a game (dropped after protests), the continuing militarization of sports is a disturbing - yet largely uncontested - trend. When militarism is linked with sports, spectators of sport are turned into spectators of war. War becomes part of the entertainment. Fans of the game are expected to consume both forms of entertainment - to conflate the two, to see them as related and inseparable - and to do so unquestioningly.

Why?

Why is war glorified at a baseball game or a hockey game? Why is military worship associated with sporting events? Why should we accept this as normal and natural?

Have we come to see war as just another sport? Is there an assumption that the people who attend sporting events are especially receptive to military propaganda? Or is sport being used as the great leveler, the mass common denominator, the stand-in for The Public, those whose passive consent is required in order for the war to continue?

As both Allan and I have written in too many posts, questioning and challenging this norm is decried as "political," as in, "Why are you bringing politics into baseball? Can't we just enjoy the game?". On the other hand, the presence of militarism at a game, being the dominant view, is seen as neutral. But of course, it's not neutral. Every "hero" honoured, every flag waved, every resounding exhortation about the troops "protecting our way of life," is a conscious act, and a political one.

Apparently Canadians once saw this as a peculiarly USian phenomenon - but no longer. Given the nature of the Harper Government and the direction in which Canada has been headed, this is unsurprising. But we should still find it disturbing, and we should challenge it.

The current issue of Canadian Dimension magazine takes an in-depth look. In the lead story, "The NHL and the New Canadian Militarism: National Game, International Shame", Tyler Shipley works it out.
There was a time when the idea of military pomp at a Canadian sporting event would have seemed absurdly out of place — that was an American thing. Oh, how the times have changed.

These days, when you settle in to watch the Jets beat the Leafs on Saturday night, you do so understanding that there will almost inevitably be some kind of military spectacle on display. Maybe soldiers will rappel from the rafters to thunderous applause. Maybe there will be a moment of silence for our fallen heroes. Maybe Don Cherry will take us on an unscheduled trip to Kandahar in a jocular salute to the boys who are maintaining their team loyalties even while they keep us safe over there.

But wait — over where? Keeping us safe from whom? Doesn’t it matter?

Not according to the NHL, the CBC, or the countless franchises, broadcasters, sponsors and pundits who have made themselves a crucial component of the new Canadian militarism. Ours is not to talk about actual details of Canada’s military engagements, it is simply to “support the troops.” Those who question this mantra are told that while one may or may not agree with the particular deployments of the Canadian Armed Forces, we all have a responsibility to support the men and women who put their bodies on the line for us.

But the logic does not hold. Uncritically supporting the troops is a tacit support of their deployments especially since, in the first place, that support is premised on the notion that they are protecting us. That is, it requires that we believe that the troops’ particular deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Haiti, Mali and elsewhere are making us safer — a claim that is not at all self-evident. Moreover, the military celebrations at NHL games themselves make no effort to separate the troops from their missions, and it needs to be added that there are plenty of other Canadians — aid workers, doctors, nurses, activists — who also put their bodies on the line doing work that doesn’t involve killing, injuring or torturing anyone. They receive no similar tributes at hockey games. [Read more here.]
If you're Canadian and this interests you, please check out the new group Sports Without War.
Sports Without War (SWW) is a collection of sports fans, athletes, concerned citizens, and activists organized against Canada’s role in imperial interventions, occupations and military actions around the world, most notably, in Afghanistan.

In particular, we are opposed to the increased use of professional sports as an avenue to promote an imperialistic, pro-military politics. SWW aims to challenge pro-military messaging at sporting events and in sports media through targeted information campaigns, speaking events, and public demonstrations.

Professional sports and the sporting media is a pervasive part of our lives. As sports fans, we enjoy participating in the excitement and drama of seeing the world’s greatest athletes compete at the highest level. Nevertheless, we increasingly find our enjoyment of the games interrupted by blatant military propaganda, from the presence of recruiters at arenas and stadiums, to military-themed team uniforms, to the spectacle of troops rappelling from the rafters, to solemn services honouring their sacrifices.

These services ignore the many people - often civilians - who have been killed in the course of Canada’s war in Afghanistan. In so doing, they explicitly support the Canadian occupation, which has not been driven by humanitarian or security interests but, rather, by a collusion of corporate interests that prioritize profits over human lives. In the meantime, the Canadian government is spending billions of dollars on the war machine, while ordinary Canadians are struggling in the climate of austerity, job cuts, and wage freezes.

The realm of professional sport should be reflective of popular opinion, rather than actively seeking to promote an unpopular pro-military position. But military propaganda in sports is part of a broader project to build support for a new Canadian militarism, in a country where some 80% of the population opposes its most visible military occupation, in Afghanistan.

SWW is part of the larger pro-peace, anti-war movement and understands that while sporting culture can be accessible and unifying, it can also be oppressive and violent along a variety of social divisions, including but not limited to gender, sexuality, race, and class. We will endeavor to create a non-hierarchical atmosphere at our meetings and events, and we encourage anyone interested in promoting peace and justice to participate in our organizing efforts.
Folks from SWW recently leafletted a Blue Jays game, in protest of the so-called "Sunday Salute" to a member of the Canadian military. You can find them on Facebook.

8.14.2013

dimanno: let's make sochi the gay games

When I read Stephen Fry's open letter to the IOC, and the continued calls to boycott or move the Sochi Games because of the horrendous and institutionalized homophobic violence within Russia, I couldn't help but think of the Beijing Games. I absolutely understand the uproar over Russia's anti-gay laws, and I agree, of course. But did the same people make so much as a peep when the Olympics were in Beijing? China is one of the worst human rights offenders on the planet, but all I heard during the Beijing Olympics was "Go Canada".

I personally boycotted the Beijing Games (here's why), then soon discovered that I was done with the Olympics altogether. And certainly everyone who feels disgusted and offended at the homphobia emanating from Russia should personall boycott the games if that's what feels right to them. But Sochi is hosting, and that's not going to change. What can the people who'll be there do?

Rosie DiManno has the right idea. DiManno and I disagree on many things, especially on One Big Thing. But DiManno has been relentless on Toronto's Mayor Crack, as she is about police violence and abuse. And I think she's on the money on what needs to happen in Sochi.
American figure skater Johnny Weir intends to be his flamboyant gay self at the Sochi Olympics.

New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, homosexual and activist, will wear the Rainbow Pin created by the London 2012 Olympic Organizing Committee to promote diversity.

BBC presenter Clare Balding, best in show for sports commentary at those Games, will anchor 100 hours of Olympic coverage — undoubtedly as knowledgeable and frank as ever.

I defy any Russian government authority to drag an athlete off the medal podium or a lesbian personality out of the broadcast booth for the crime of making a pro-gay gesture or statement.

It won’t happen. The imbecilic legislation passed in June will be not merely ignored but exposed for all its ridiculous, draconian ambition. The athletes, primarily, will see to that. Throughout the history of the modern Games, they have always been the ones who’ve rescued the Olympics from politics, ideology and craven greed.

The most iconic image of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin — the Nazi Games — is Jesse Owens accepting his gold medal, on four occasions, even while German rivals gave their “Heil Hitler” salutes. A black man put the boots to Aryan racial superiority, with a sour-faced Hitler looking on.

While too much of a burden is routinely placed on athletes to exemplify something other than their sporting pre-eminence, in Sochi they will once again transcend the rhetoric and ranting on all sides with memorable performances. That’s as it should be. There will be no boycott, no moving of the Games to another city, as some have promoted. Logistically, it’s impossible. Morally, it’s on slippery turf.

. . . . .

Only once has the IOC cleaved to a moral compass — banning apartheid South Africa from the Games from 1964 to 1992. Meanwhile, African-American 200-metre medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Mexico Games for raising their fists on the podium in the Black Power salute.

If respecting human rights was a criterion for the IOC, they wouldn’t have awarded the Games to Sochi in the first place, or to Beijing in 2008. But it’s done and political protests that primarily punish athletes are intolerable.

The futility of this gambit repeatedly: President Jimmy Carter pulled the U.S. out of the Moscow Summer Games in 1980 over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, with Canada and more than 60 other countries following suit. (Twenty-one years later, it was America’s turn to invade Afghanistan.)

In Montreal, 1976, 24 countries boycotted the Games, objecting to the inclusion of New Zealand because their rugby team had played a match in apartheid South Africa. In 1984, it was the Soviet Union and its allies passing on Los Angeles in retaliation for 1980.

Many athletes only had that single shot at an Olympics. Who remembers now the sacrifices forced upon them, because politicians were gaming the Games?

So go, gays. Be proud, raise the rainbow flag, kiss your same-sex partners in the stands, scorn the stupid law. If any athlete is persecuted or prosecuted, the media will have your back.

For 17 days in February, let’s all be citizens of Queer Nation.

6.15.2013

dave zirin writes to dan snyder: why the washington nfl team must change its name

Here is the definitive piece on why the NFL team in Washington DC must change its name, written by - who else - Dave Zirin: Enough: An Open Letter to Enough Dan Snyder, at Grantland. Please go and read it.

4.29.2013

thank you, jason collins!

It has finally happened. A professional male athlete in one of the big US team sports has come out as gay. Someone had to be first, and that person is Jason Collins of the NBA. Thank you, Mr. Collins, for your courage and your honesty!

From the Sports Illustrated cover story:

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

. . . .

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."

The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8.

No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time.
Jason Collins will never know all the people he has reached, the lives he has touched, with his courage and his honesty. I look forward to the time when a professional athlete being out is completely unremarkable.

3.14.2013

how can we condemn bigotry on the soccer field yet support racist israeli policies?

This week in The Nation, Dave Zirin reports on some disturbing - and disgusting - behaviour from Israeli soccer fans.
Not even in the earliest days of Jackie Robinson’s 1947 historic debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers did Brooklyn’s white fans walk out after number 42 stole a base or hit a home run. The Brooklyn faithful’s love of “Dem Bums” trumped any racism that simmered in the stands. What does it say that sixty-six years later, Israeli fans of the soccer club Beitar Jerusalem have not evolved to postwar-Brooklyn standards of human decency?

Earlier this season, Beitar Jersulam broke their own version of the “color line” by signing the first two Muslim players in team history: Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev. Predictably, Beitar’s supporters were madder than the NRA in a school zone. Boos have rained down on Sadayev and Kadiyev every time they’ve taken the field or touched the ball. Several members of a team fan club flew a banner that read, “Beitar is pure forever.” Two others attempted to burn down the team offices. This pales, however, next to what happened when Sadayev scored his first goal for the team last week. After the striker found glory, hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans simply stood up and walked out. Even by soccer standards, where racism on the pitch is a continual plague, this organized nature of the action was shocking.

As one 19-year-old fan told The Independent, “The reaction to the Muslim players being here is not racist. But the club’s existence is under threat. Beitar is a symbol for the whole country.” Another said, “It’s not racism, they just shouldn’t be here…. Beitar Jerusalem has always been a clean club, but now it’s being destroyed—many of the other players are thinking of leaving because of the Muslim players being here."
Most Americans and Canadians will be repelled by this blatant bigotry, and will condemn it. That certainly includes most US Jews. But how many of those North Americans will continue to support the roots of this bigotry?

Israel's racist policies of exclusion condone and enable this disgusting display. Indeed, it's not possible to build a society on racist policies and not see this kind of behaviour on the ground. Just like "whites only" signs and segregated public facilities throughout the Jim Crow US South enabled and condoned ugly, hateful acts by some white Americans, so do the racist policies of present-day Israel enable these hateful acts by Israeli soccer fans.

If this is wrong, the wall is wrong.

If this is wrong, the checkpoints are wrong.

If this is wrong, Jewish-only Israeli settlements in the West Bank are wrong.

If this is wrong, laws controlling the legal rights, movements, access to land, and civil liberties of Palestinian people - laws that do not apply to Israelis - are wrong.

How can you condemn these soccer fans and their desire for racial purity, yet continue to support Israeli apartheid?

Read Dave Zirin's full column here.

See also, my interview with a South African activist explaining why it is accurate to call the Israeli system of control of the Palestinian population apartheid, and why that apartheid is even more brutal than the system he grew up under in South Africa: "they didn't build a wall": is israel an apartheid state? a south african perspective: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

See also, Dave Zirin: Killing Hope: Why Israel Targets Sports in Gaza

12.03.2012

walmart workers, marvin miller, rob ford: important stuff that happened while i wasn't blogging

As the title says, here are some things I thought about while I was taking a blogging break.

● Marvin Miller died. Miller should be a hero of both the labour movement and baseball history. He should also be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Anyone interested in the intersection of sports and politics should read his terrific book, A Whole New Ball Game. Dave Zirin interviews Miller here; Joy of Sox muses on his passing here.

During the 1994 baseball strike, I wrote to Miller via the players' union. Within two weeks, I received a reply: a typewritten letter, which included his home address. Something to treasure.

● There's really nothing I can say about Rob Ford, former mayor of Toronto, that hasn't already been said. I just wanted wmtc to join the celebration. Marcus Gee: Rob Ford's self-inflicted downfall; Toronto Media Coop: Rob Ford's litany of misdeeds.

Photos from the OUR Walmart actions on the day after US Thanksgiving are here. OUR Walmart writes:
We did it!

With your support, hundreds of us bravely stood up to Walmart on Black Friday and went on strike. Despite the retail giant's illegal threats and scare tactics, we were inspired to take action like never before.

In addition to the stores where we had planned strikes, we heard about other coworkers in Atlanta, GA, Ocean City, MD, Tupelo, MS, and even Paducah, KY-who were inspired to strike by the incredible outpour of support by community members like you!

Unsurprisingly, Walmart's high-priced PR team is doing everything they can to downplay these historic events and ignore its employees. Deciding to go on strike on Black Friday was never about boycotting or affecting Walmart's bottom line. It was about changing the national debate about workers in this country. With more than 2,000 news stories covering the historic strikes, we are making our voices heard.

With tens of thousands of supporters on our side, we will continue to grow more support and build more alliances. Rest assured, if Walmart does not stop its retaliation against workers who speak out for change, we will strike again. We know change will not happen overnight, especially in the face of Walmart's fierce opposition and illegal threats. But the truth is out-and we will not back down. We will continue to raise our voices, and we will continue to bring on new supporters every day.

We are not afraid to stand up and speak out, because with your support, we all see that change is possible.

11.14.2012

sam gordon, girls playing football, and the last bit of segregation we still tolerate


In case you haven't seen this yet, it's 9-year-old football sensation Sam Gordon, the only girl on her Utah football team. Dave Zirin raises the question: why do we assume gender segregation in sports is necessary? The historical perspective, plus the more recent rethinking of the binary nature of gender, opens new vistas.
Few 9-year-old girls are described as a “young—very young—Walter Payton.” But that’s what people are calling Sam Gordon of South Jordan, Utah. Gordon has become an Internet sensation after the spread of viral videos showing her shredding Pee Wee football defenses with a series of dynamic touchdown runs.

The footage of Gordon has been passed around breathlessly but almost as a YouTube curio, like she’s the 2012 version of the “dramatic chipmunk” or “sneezing panda”.

Her rather overwhelming awesomeness, however, raises far more interesting questions: Why do we still segregate so much of youth sports based on gender? Does the practice of doing so actually stunt female athletic potential? Would ending gender segregation foster a higher level of athletic excellence? The early women’s rights activists certainly thought so. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in a women’s issues magazine, The Lily, “We cannot say what the woman might be physically, if the girl were allowed all the freedom of the boy, in romping, swimming, climbing, playing ball.”
Zirin muses: "The future of sports could be a beautiful, life-affirming safe-space or it could be an anchor on human progress." Read more here.

7.28.2012

olympics. not.


The 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics kick off today, with Opening Ceremonies that are supposed to be completely over-the-top. With a £27 million price tag ($42.5 million Canadian) for those three hours alone, they ought to be. We're told that one billion people worldwide will watch the Opening Ceremonies. I won't be one of them.

I used to love the Olympics - the competition, the ubiquitous underdog stories, the feats of seemingly superhuman ability. I was able to tune out the nationalism and concentrate on the athletes. In the 1990s, when I started writing about disability sports, I shifted my focus to the Paralympics. I felt that competition best embodied the true spirit of amateur sport, and that helped me block out the increasingly disturbing issues surrounding the Olympic games.

These days I can't enjoy the games at all. I get past the corporatism, the nationalism, and the constant blending of the two into a corporate-fascist spectacle.

Right now in London, as the UK is besieged by the continued dismantling of the public sector, as banksters continue to rig the system while workers pay 20% VAT and lose their public libraries, a great city is victimized again by a £9,000,000,000 (that's $14.2 billion Canadian) funnelling of public funds into private coffers.

The residents of London are under siege in a civil liberties crackdown rivalling the horror show Toronto lived through during the G20. Brand Police comb the city for trademark infringements, forcing the owners of an "Olympic Cafe" to change their sign to "Lympic Cafe", and threatening a sausage vendor who sculpted the familiar five rings out of kielbasa with a $30,000 fine. If that sounds funny, consider that these special police have the right to enter homes, shops, and offices without a warrant, and remove signs the Olympic committee has deemed unacceptable.


I used to find refuge in the Paralympics, but naturally those games have been infected by the same viruses. Witness Canadian wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy, from the neighbouring town of Oakville, world-record winner of the 2012 Boston Marathon. Cassidy is extremely talented and time was I'd be interviewing him... but the oil pipeline company logo on his chest is just more than I can bear.

I thank and stand in solidarity with the Counter Olympics Network for their excellent work at documenting the increasing militarization, corporate profit, and assault on housing, labour, and the environment that the Olympics have become.


Cartoon Movement has a good graphic version of the issues.

And I hope you will enjoy the results of the counter-Olympics logos and posters collected by an excellent subversive blogger Kevin Blowe, a/k/a Random Blowe.

If all else fails, you can always follow the Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs. (Thanks to reader John F in comments.)

Update.
In late 2011, Chris Allison — Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner and the national coordinator of Olympic security — briefed the London Assembly on policing costs for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He highlighted ‘four key risks to the Games’—terrorism, protest, organised crime, and natural disasters. Singling out protest as a ‘threat’ and then sandwiching it between terrorism and organised crime was revealing. For political activists it was ominous. Security officials should most assuredly do their best to prevent acts of terrorism—that’s their job—but this does not give them carte blanche to conflate activism with terrorism and criminality. Keeping the Games safe from terrorism is one thing—green lighting the squelching of individual freedoms and human rights is another entirely.
From the Red Pepper Blog, "Policing Dissent at London 2012". Thanks to AZ.

7.24.2012

penn state sanctions: justice for - and by - survivors

I spent some time last night reading reaction to the sanctions against Penn State University set out by the NCAA. (I should qualify that: I was reading the reactions of intelligent, compassionate people. I don't need to read anything written by people who care more about football than child sexual abuse.) If you haven't read about the sanctions, this is a good explanation.

Many people are upset, feeling that anything short of the so-called "death penalty" - the complete dismantling of Penn State's football program - is a failure of the NCAA.

Although I would have preferred to see the end of Penn State football for five or 10 years, I do think the NCAA sanctions are weighty and meaningful. They force the school to continue to play their vaunted sport in greatly diminished form. As my friend Barry Crimmins said on Facebook, they are "forced to be shitty in public" for a certain length of time, an ongoing public humiliation.

Certain aspects of the sanctions are especially meaningful. I'm pleased that more than a decade worth of wins will be wiped from the official record, because I care about history. Joe Paterno, whose shameful inaction enabled the sexual abuse of children, has been officially stripped of his honours, and that is fitting. I wish he were alive to see it, because he deserves to live with the shame.

The organization that allowed the abuse to continue - the sports equivalent of reassigning the priest so he can rape some kids in a new town - has to live with their ongoing humiliation, too. (Current football players can transfer to other universities and begin playing immediately, so while they are affected, their careers are not scuttled.) The whopping $60 million fine, the ban on postseason play, the reduction in scholarships, and the public exposure and shaming of the program means that Penn State football will not be competitive for at least a decade.

Regarding the fine, there seems to be some misunderstanding: the money doesn't go to the NCAA. The $60 million, roughly the annual revenue of Penn State's football program, will fund programs that assist victims of child sexual abuse and work to educate and prevent abuse. The programs can't be administered by Penn State or the NCAA. So the outrage over the NCAA profiting from Penn State's horrific past is misplaced.

For me, this entire story - the public outrage, the grand jury investigation, the criminal proceedings against Jerry Sandusky, Sandusky's conviction as a serial pedophile, The Freeh Report, and the NCAA actions against Penn State - has been very encouraging. Every moment of it - every second of air time, every pixel and column-inch - has been the result of activism on the part of survivors and their advocates - the social workers, therapists, program directors, community activists - who have refused to be silent.

Fifty years ago, none of this happens. Thirty years ago, a scandal erupts but Penn State is able to contain it and carry on. Today, the school's institutional failure, the power structure that put football and its profit ahead of human rights and the safety and dignity of children, has been exposed and, we hope, dismantled.

This sea change didn't just happen on its own, and it wasn't caused by media attention. Quite the contrary. The media storm, the conviction, and the sanctions are the collective result of every survivor who has ever said, "This was not my fault. This should not have been done to me. If it's been done to you, you are not alone."

My heart goes out to every one of the former children who were Sandusky's victims. Thank you all.

4.08.2012

"the greatest problem is we are afraid to offend our oppressors": john carlos, tommie smith, and a lesson about resistance


This is one of the most iconic photos in sports history: the Olympics, 1968, Mexico City. As the Star Spangled Banner begins to play, gold-medal winner Tommie Smith and bronze-medal winner John Carlos, each wearing a single black glove, raise their fists in a black-power salute. Peter Norman, the silver medal winner from Australia, wears a badge in support of their gesture.

This moment of silent protest rocked the world. The social revolution - often referred to as the "turmoil" - of 1968 broke through the sanitized, apolitical facade, forcing the public to notice and react. From The Guardian:
Anticipating some kind of protest was afoot, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had sent Jesse Owens to talk them out of it. (Owens's four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin themselves held great symbolic significance, given Hitler's belief in Aryan supremacy.) Carlos's mind was made up. When he and Smith struck their pose, Carlos feared the worst. Look at the picture and you'll see that while Smith's arm is raised long and erect, Carlos has his slightly bent at the elbow. "I wanted to make sure, in case someone rushed us, I could throw down a hammer punch," he writes. "We had just received so many threats leading up to that point, I refused to be defenceless at that moment of truth."

It was also a moment of silence. "You could have heard a frog piss on cotton. There's something awful about hearing 50,000 people go silent, like being in the eye of a hurricane."

And then came the storm. First boos. Then insults and worse. People throwing things and screaming racist abuse. "Niggers need to go back to Africa!" and, "I can't believe this is how you niggers treat us after we let you run in our games."

"The fire was all around me," Carlos recalls. The IOC president ordered Smith and Carlos to be suspended from the US team and the Olympic village. Time magazine showed the Olympic logo with the words Angrier, Nastier, Uglier, instead of Faster, Higher, Stronger. The LA Times accused them of engaging in a "Nazi-like salute".
This is yet another example of courageous resistance being vilified in the media and by the public, only to later shine in memory. One day Martin Luther King is on the FBI's Enemies of the State list, the next day politicians are shoving each other out of the way to say they loved him all along. Malcolm X's face is on a postage stamp. Never be afraid to be hated.

The terrific piece in The Guardian, with excerpts from the book The John Carlos Story, puts the protest in perspective, and puts you in John Carlos' mind as the moment approached.
The first thing I thought was the shackles have been broken," Carlos says, casting his mind back to how he felt in that moment. "And they won't ever be able to put shackles on John Carlos again. Because what had been done couldn't be taken back. Materially, some of us in the incarceration system are still literally in shackles. The greatest problem is we are afraid to offend our oppressors.

"I had a moral obligation to step up. Morality was a far greater force than the rules and regulations they had. God told the angels that day, 'Take a step back – I'm gonna have to do this myself.'"

The image certainly captures that sense of momentary rebellion. But what it cannot do is evoke the human sense of emotional turmoil and individual resolve that made it possible, or the collective, global gasp in response to its audacity. In his book, The John Carlos Story, in the seconds between mounting the podium and the anthem playing, Carlos writes that his mind raced from the personal to the political and back again. Among other things, he reflected on his father's pained explanation for why he couldn't become an Olympic swimmer, the segregation and consequent impoverishment of Harlem, the exhortations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to "be true to yourself even when it hurts", and his family. The final thought before the band started playing was, "Damn, when this thing is done, it can't be taken back.
There's a lesson many of my fellow Canadians need to hear: we cannot be afraid to offend our oppressors. I mean no disrespect to these courageous men when I post this more recent, modest echo of that day.


The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World is co-authored by the one and only Dave Zirin. Thanks to M@ for posting the Guardian story on G+.

2.20.2012

what we talk about when we talk about jeremy lin

Even if you live in a sports-free universe, the name Jeremy Lin may have seeped in through osmosis. The 24-year-old Harvard grad and point guard for the New York Knicks basketball team has inspired a wave of Lin-sanity and Lin-spiration around North America and much of the world. Lin is not the first NBA player of Asian descent, but there haven't been many, and none as home-grown and crowd-pleasing as Lin.

Lin is a rags-to-riches sports story. He attended university without a sports scholarship, wasn't drafted after graduation, was waived by one NBA team, then claimed off the scrap heap as a bench-warmer by another. Then, given a chance to start for the Knicks, he made history. Lin has set and broken records for most points scored and most assists in his first three, four, and five career starts, ushering in a Knicks win-streak, a Sports Illustrated cover... and a conversation about identity, generally going by the label race.

The other night I caught the tail-end of the local CBC news broadcast from Vancouver (waiting for Coronation Street on timeshifting, in my last days of cable TV). There was a lovely feel-good story on the hoards of young Vancouverites struck with Linfatuation. All the boys and girls interviewed were of Asian descent. All were clearly identifying with Lin's ethnic heritage and feeling pride and joy in seeing themselves reflected in his success, so far from the bookish stereotypes.

Yet the reporter and anchors never once mentioned Lin's background. If it had been radio, you wouldn't have known Lin and his legions of young fans shared a heritage.

This strikes me as simply silly. It's not racist to acknowledge our diverse backgrounds.

On the other hand, we have this:


And this:


And this, made by a fan, but crassly aired by the MSG Network:


Each of these images and headlines plays on Lin's background, but they don't raise the dial on the Racist Meter to the same degree. "Chink" is a racial denigration, along the lines of spic, gook, kike, and so on. The fortune cookie, besides being ungrammatical, is fine for a fan but crass from a broadcaster. Personally, I don't find "Amasian" - in a town where a baseball team is known as the Amazin's - racist. Some people do, though, because it calls so much attention to Lin's background, in a way that wouldn't be done for a white or African American player. But isn't part of Linsanity specifically because Lin is of Asian descent? And that's where, for some people, things get tricky.

After several blatantly racist remarks by three separate commenters ESPN issued this apology:
At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin.

Saturday we apologized for two references. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York. The incidents were separate and different. We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action:

• The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed.
• The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days.
• The radio commentator is not an ESPN employee.

We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.
Jason Whitlock, a Fox Sports announcer and apparently frustrated comedian, combined racist and sexist stereotypes in a tweet that drew instant criticism. And if you want to get into the dark heart of hatred, wade into the cesspool of comments on any of these stories.

African-American athlete Floyd Mayweather seemed offended by the fuss over Lin: "Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise." And that's true. Our society expects physical prowess from people who look African and a lack thereof from people who look Asian. Columnist Michael Dulka writes:
A huge part of the fascination with Lin is the fact that it's unexpected. The NBA has more than 400 players, and how many are of Asian decent?

Jeremy Lin has always proved he can play ball. In his final year of high school, Lin led his Palo Alto High School Vikings to a 32-1 record and beat a national powerhouse in Mater Dei for California's Division II state title.

Even with that success, no scholarships. Then, he went on to have success at the college level in the Ivy League, playing for Harvard. He entered the NBA undrafted and was given few opportunities to showcase his talents. But at every level, when given the opportunity, Lin has done a marvelous job showing what he can do.

In basketball, the expectation has become that black players are the more athletic players and are better suited to play the guard and forward positions. For white players, they can either play point guard or big man. Whether right or wrong, these are the stereotypes of the current NBA.
Those of us who follow these issues are familiar with the stereotypes that pervade college basketball coverage, where predominantly white teams are said to be smart, canny, intelligent, and hard-working, and predominantly black teams are characterized as "natural talents", who roll out of bed onto the court. In baseball, tough white guys are gritty and scrappy. When they have meltdowns, they are passionate. Black guys with the same temperament are hotheads, loose cannons, clubhouse cancers. If you're a black baseball player, best to be docile or jolly. Latin players, of course, are colourful but volatile. As more Asian players begin to appear in the major leagues, we're hearing they are enigmatic and mysterious. I don't think the sports world is less evolved or less intelligent than the rest of the world. I think it's just more blatant.

The place to turn for the most consistently progressive and insightful commentary on these issues is Dave Zirin, at Edge of Sports, and at The Nation.
But Lin already represents something more significant. When Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight champion, using a style both cerebral and severe, he defied racist conceptions of white supremacy as well as stereotypes that decreed African-Americans didn’t have the intelligence to apply strategy and smarts to sport. We can say the same about Jackie Robinson when he did more than just break baseball’s color barrier and win the Rookie of the Year in 1947. Robinson also played with a grace under pressure that challenged white—and even many black—preconceptions about mental toughness on the highest stage. In addition, he did so while playing with an energy that forever changed the game. Or consider Martina Navratilova. Yes, she blazed trails just by being an out and proud LGBT champion tennis player. But she also played with a muscled strength and swagger that changed women’s sports forever. The Williams sisters owe as much to Martina as they do to Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.

This is the power of Jeremy Lin. It’s not just that he’s a cultural curio: “Asian-American from Harvard in the NBA!” It’s the way he plays the game. Asian-Americans, in our stereotypical lens, are supposed to be studious and reserved. We would expect nothing less than that the first Asian-American player would be robotic and fundamentally sound; their face an unsmiling mask. In sports, we haven’t moved that far from the days when we expected Jack Johnson to be a wild, undisciplined brawler in the ring or Martina to play on the baseline. Instead, we have Jeremy Lin threading no-look passes, throwing down dunks and, in the most respected mark of toughness, taking contact and finishing baskets.
For my money, Lin should absolutely be celebrated as an Asian-American player, busting stereotypes, creating new images, inspiring kids to new dreams. But the concept of race should be relegated to history, like the whalebone corset, an antiquated relic of the Victorian Age. Ethnic backgrounds, traditions, heritages - these are all real, as they rest on cultures that we participate in. Race, though, is a social fiction.

Read an American or Canadian newspaper story from the early 20th Century, and you'll find stories about the many races of immigrants flocking to the new world: Italians, Russians, Poles, Norwegians, and so on, each characterized as a separate race. None were simply called white. The European conquistadors and pilgrims thought they had discovered an Indian race, rather than hundreds of separate nations. The people abducted and forced into bondage by the slave traders were told they were African, a continental consciousness invented by their oppressors. Newspapers often referred to them as Ethopians, a generic name for black.

Each of those European "races" were allowed to become socially white, even the "swarthy" Italians and Greeks and the despised famine-ship Irish were whitened over time. In certain North American worlds, those of us whose ancestors hail from Italy, Greece, or the Jewish ghettos know that we are not quite white, and never will be. But somehow we are now part of the white "race".

Yet if a person is visibly of African or Asian descent - based solely on physical appearance - she is still said to be of a different race. African-American heritage and literature are rich with this colour divide - those who can "pass," those who, despite a white parent or grandparent, have black features, so they are black. Researching this post, I saw a reference to an NBA player who is supposedly "one-sixteenth Filipino". Filipinos, whose Asian heritage often includes remnants of the Spanish invasions. And what is one-sixteenth? Does this person look Asian, or does he wear a sign that says "I'm not white"?

As I said, a social fiction.

6.04.2011

major league baseball teams say: it gets better


The San Francisco Giants are the first major sports team to make an It Gets Better video in support of LGBT youth and the anti-bullying campaign. The Giants produced the video in response to a request from a long-time fan on Change.org.
Sean Chapin, a 35-year-old accountant and member of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, used his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds to drive a Change.org petition urging the Giants to produce the video.

"I was sick of the negative conversation around Kobe Bryant's gay slur," Chapin said. "So I said wouldn't it be really great if we were talking about LGBT issues in a positive way."

Chapin collected more than 6,500 online signatures, and the Giants soon agreed.
A Chicago Cubs fan adopted the idea, and the Chicago Cubs will become the next team to make an IGB video. And just today, we heard our Boston Red Sox will do the same.
The Boston Red Sox announced today that they will produce an “It Gets Better” video, becoming the third team in professional sports in a week to join the campaign in taking a stand against anti-gay bullying and homophobia. More than 9,000 people -- mostly Red Sox fans in New England -- signed 12-year-old Sam Maden’s Change.org petition to the Red Sox, which he started in honor of his Uncle Chris, who died unexpectedly in January at the age of 43.

"We are proud of dedicated Red Sox fans like 12-year-old Sam Maden who have taken the courageous step of publicly standing up against bullying of LGBT youth," said Susan Goodenow, Senior Vice President/Public Affairs and Marketing for the Red Sox, in a statement. "The Red Sox have frequently done PSA videos, or public service announcement videos, on important social issues. We are currently producing an “It Gets Better” video to support the It Gets Better campaign to stop bullying of LGBT youth and teen suicides. We hope that when it is released it will both reflect our continued commitment to be active participants in the community and help advance the efforts of Sam and others to stop bullying. Our team stands for respect and inclusion – there is no place for discrimination or acts of hatred in Red Sox Nation."

Sam Maden’s effort began after his seventh-grade teacher recently asked him to come up with a project that could “make a difference” in the world. Sam decided to merge his love for the Red Sox with a cause his uncle believed in passionately: ending the bullying of gay kids and kids perceived to be gay. Inspired by news that the San Francisco Giants had responded to a fan’s petition on Change.org by announcing they would become the first pro sports team to create an “It Gets Better” anti-bullying video, Sam decided to ask his favorite team -- the Red Sox -- to make a video as well.

Sam, who currently plays on three baseball teams and was invited by the Red Sox to shout “Play Ball!” before a sold-out crowd at Fenway Park, thinks a video from the team will be a milestone in professional sports.

“When I found out about my uncle’s passing, I didn’t know what to do,” Sam Maden said. “This is something I can do to honor him. Uncle Chris knew how much I love the Red Sox and I think he would have been thrilled with the team making an ‘It Gets Better’ video to support kids.”
Sam Maden is one cool kid. I read about kids like this every day - young people with ideas and energy and compassion, eager to make a difference in their world. And I think, this is our job as adults: to support the efforts of young people like Sam Maden - not to piss on their ideas with cynicism and defeatism - but to reflect their compassion and their hope back at them, to show them the world is worth fighting for, and that we're fighting, too.

Also: go Red Sox! I can't wait to see the video!

5.24.2011

another (canadian) athlete speaks out for equal marriage

It comes as no surprise that NBA great - and peace-loving Canadian - Steve Nash supports same-sex marriage. But it's damn great to hear him say it.



Does anyone know of a list or compilation of all the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality videos? Human Rights Campaign, the organization that's producing the videos, doesn't seem to have them archived. I've Googled the daylights out of it and can't find anything.