I was going to write a throwaway line or two Sunday night about the five St. Louis Rams players who, before their game with the Raiders, protested the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson non-indictment decision in Ferguson.
But the more I thought about it, I felt it deserved its own post.
What the Rams players did, if you didn’t see it, was come out in pregame introductions and throw their hands up, in the now-familiar “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” symbol that has become such a part of the Ferguson protest movement.
Predictably, some on the lunatic fringe went nuts, accusing the NFL players of siding against the police (Less predictably, the St. Louis police department lost their damn minds, vaguely threatening to no longer protect Rams players in the community. Stephen Colbert perfectly captured the insanity of this.)
But what this small protest was, to me, was a continuation of a welcome trend in pro sports over the past few years: Athletes using their status to speak out on social and current issues.
We’ve seen LeBron James and the Miami Heat publicly show solidarity with Trayvon Martin. Major league baseball players threatened to boycott the All-Star Game in Arizona in 2010 over the state’s proposed draconian anti-immigration law, and then-active NFL’ers like Chris Kluwe and Brendan Ayanbadejo strongly supported gay-rights legislation.
This is all in stark contrast to what athletes mostly did in the 1980s and ’90s, when Michael Jordan’s infamous quote when asked to oppose racist Senator Jesse Helms (“Republicans buy sneakers, too) typified how star athletes felt. Then, it seemed they couldn’t be bothered, so self-centered and greedy and single-minded were they.
Why are athletes so much more motivated now? Maybe it has to do with the explosion of social media, with athletes feeling a closer connection to their fans and communities and feeling safer in expressing their views.
Maybe, like LeBron, more of them simply feel they ought to use their standing for good, to push issues even further into consciousness, and force sports fans to think about other things (always a good idea).
I don’t really know the reason, nor do I care. I’m just thrilled that so many of today’s “heroes” have a social conscience. They have so much influence over kids, it’s great to see them push something more than sports drinks and headphones.
**Next up, my boy Pearlman threw this out on Twitter last week; a cartoon by Mark Parisi from a few years back, and it stumped me for a while, then made me annoyed that I didn’t get it, then when the joke was pointed out to me I laughed real hard.
So far of the 10 people I’ve shown it to, only 2 have gotten it straight out. But since my readers are brilliant, I’m sure you’ll get it. Pretty damn funny if you ask me…
**Finally today, I thought this was all kinds of awesome. A 35-year-old Minnesota man named Aaron Purmort died of brain cancer last week, but in his obit in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, he revealed that he was indeed, Spider-Man.
The obit reads that “mild-mannered” Purmort “died peacefully at home on Nov. 25 after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer, who has plagued our society for far too long.”
The obit goes on to say that Purmort is survived by his wife, Nora, and their young son, Ralph. He cites accomplishments including a high school band “which reached critical acclaim in the northern suburbs,” a degree from the College of Visual Arts “which also died an untimely death recently,” and his ability to always have “the right cardigan and the right thing to say (even if it was wildly inappropriate).”
That’s a beautiful obit for a man taken far too young. But hey, he did get to be Spider-Man during his life, so that’s something. (I also love that in the comments section of the obit there’s an entry from “Bruce Wayne,” saying they’ll meet again somewhere.”
Humor is the best antidote to everything in life.