Sports men and women from around the globe have been galvanised into action by the appalling death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

It was always going to take something extraordinary to knock the Covid-19 pandemic off its prime position as a headline.

Graphic images surrounding the event have been visceral and shocking to a global community already reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our collective control over primitive impulses of rage has proven to be fragile. Given the right triggers, we descend into anarchy and chaos. Aggressive impulses no longer contained. Our coping mechanisms and psychological defences breached.

Violence has erupted in cities across the United States with many imposing curfews which have been ignored. Thus adding more fuel to an already combustible situation.

The Covid-19 social distancing requirements a mere inconvenience and anathema.

Riot police have clashed with protestors in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. Police vehicles have been set on fire as were shops, with the retaliatory action of tear gas and pepper bullets. Looting has been prolific.

Television crews arrested, the CNN building in Atlanta pillaged.

The National Guard had been called in to many areas to assert control.

Respective rage projected onto those deemed responsible, as well as those who are not. All relative to one’s perspective and belief systems. It is civil war.

That is why sport has been so important to our psyche and the sublimation of our instincts towards socially acceptable methods of aggression and competition.

Now, even more so. Sport has been the vanguard for recognition and change for a number of different social problems.

Take that away, as well as other liberties then impose authoritarian control and restrictions, it is not surprising that the death of George Floyd has ignited a simmering unease in race relations in the United States.

George Floyd, 46, an African American, was pinned down by white police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. Floyd struggled to breathe, pleading repeatedly “I can’t breathe”, before losing consciousness.

The knee remained for three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead an hour later.

Chauvin and the three other police officers in attendance have since been dismissed. Chauvin was eventually charged with third-degree murder. It is yet to be decided whether the others are also charged, as the wheels of justice slowly come into motion.

A justice system itself heavily scrutinised and criticised for past failings.

LeBron James and others have weighed in on the debate, no longer able to contain themselves at the perceived injustice and hypocrisy over the treatment of black people and race relations.

A problem that was highlighted by the susceptibility of black people and others to the Covid-19 infection, presumably due to inequities in the health care system and its delivery.

James posted on twitter an image of Chauvin pinning Floyd down alongside an image of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, with the words “This…Is Why.”

There is an odd, but poignant parallel between a black man bending the knee in protest and the knee bent to end a black life.

James in a later tweet lamented “Why Doesn’t America Love US!!!!!???? TOO.” James also posted a picture of himself wearing a shirt saying “I can’t breathe,” which he had worn in 2014 following the death of Eric Garner in New York.

This has spawned the “I can’t breathe” movement, extending to the symbolic “We can’t breathe,” adorned by others since.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a Lakers legend, commented “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – even if you’re choking on it – until you let the sun shine in. Then you see it’s everywhere.”

Stephen Jackson, a former NBA player, was close friends with Floyd, calling him “my twin.”

At a recent rally, Jackson said “A lot of times, when police do the things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background – to make it seem like the…what they did was worthy.”

“When was murder ever worthy, but if it’s a black man, it’s approved,” Jackson opined.

The latest incident unfortunately is in a long list of injustices between law enforcement and the black community. Underpinning the problem is race relations, racism, and the rise of nationalistic extremism on both sides of the political divide in recent years.

Not only in the United States, but in Europe and elsewhere. Forces of intolerance, discrimination, dehumanisation, anger, supremacy and justice in the hands of those who justify their need for revenge and retribution by whatever means they can.

When Kaeperinick bent the knee before national anthems publically in protest, he knew the consequences. Never to play again. Ostracised, vilified, but ultimately proven to be true. He rises from the ashes as a sort of belated martyr.

Kaepernick, and for those who followed his lead, were condemned at the time for their actions. President Trump suggesting they should be ashamed, shamed and fired from their jobs, as well as those who supported them.

Now President Trump is taking a softer approach, seemingly supporting the rights of the American people to peaceful protests. At least until his affection for tweets stating that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

One has to wonder whether President Trump thought that his punning was clever enough to fix the situation. Narcissistic grandiosity at its finest.

Twitter reacted by condemning the tweets as “glorified violence.” Others have also been critical of the inflammatory use of rhetoric, something of a signature for this president.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown offered a more sedate, even civilised, approach. He led a peaceful protest in Atlanta.

“First and foremost, I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community…We’re raising awareness for some of the injustices we’ve been seeing. It’s not OK.”

Enter New York Mets star Pete Alonso, “he will not remain silent” following Floyd’s death. He followed with this statement:

“I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. To anyone who faces this type of discrimination, I will fight for you and be an ally. I will always stand with you. There needs to be justice and change made for the better of humanity. Let words be our sword and unity our armor. Take care of each other.”

NBA icon Michael Jordan, in a statement, said to “show strength and the inability to be divided by others.”

The repercussions in the sporting world have also been felt abroad.

Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho removed his top to reveal the message “Justice for George Floyd” on his shirt. He was subsequently booked for removing his shirt.

Earlier, Marcus Thuram bent the knee after scoring for Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was condemning of his sport for “staying silent in the midst of injustice.”

“I’m one of the only people of colour and yet I stand alone,” Hamilton, 35, wrote on Instagram.

Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster wrote on twitter “This is way deeper than just pointing out who’s staying quiet and who’s speaking up.”

Brewster has been subjected to racism in the past.

“For years and generations, we’ve been screaming out for change and to be heard, yet the pain continues.”

“A level playing field is all we have been asking for, forever.”

There have been multiple athletes around the world, all colours, all races, old and young, male, female and in between, who have expressed their sorrow, condemnation, support and cries for change.

American black tennis champion Serena Williams lamented the fact of not being able to understand the treatment received by those with a different skin color to the glorified white.

Naomi Osaka, the two-time Grand Slam tennis champion, wrote “just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all.”

Coco Gauff, at 16 the rising black American star in tennis, posted the faces of fellow black Americans who died in recent years at the hands of authorities or white fellow citizens, declaring “Am I next?”

There has been a contagious effect of the protest globally, spreading faster than any corona virus.

Australian AFL greats have united and joined the “Black Out Tuesday” movement, which involves posting a black square on social media to support the protests.

Indigenous Australians have long complained of “Black Deaths In Custody” the results of a Royal Commission in 1987 with over 330 recommendations still to be implemented in full.

Four hundred and thirty two Indigenous Australians have died in custody since 1991.

Liverpool Football Club players knelt down at Anfield in a moving tribute and the image shared on social media.

Racial abuse against black players has long been a problem in the Premier League.

Even so, it is sport that has the capacity to act as an arbitrator for peace, in a world on the brink of deep unrest.

Let us not forget our humanity, our collective strengths, our capacity for tolerance and understanding. More so now than ever before.

The consequences are almost too much to contemplate.

There have been protests around the world sparked by the latest injustices.

In Canada, where the recent death of a young black woman occurred under questionable circumstances.

In Britain, protesters rallied in London’s Trafalgar Square in defiance of the lockdown rules.

In Germany, crowds massed in front of the US embassy in Berlin carrying signs of “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice Can’t Wait.”

In France, protesters wore black clothing and face masks, took a knee and held signs stating the now iconic “I can’t breathe,” the desperate final words of George Floyd.

There were similar protests in Denmark, Italy, Syria, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, Poland and New Zealand.

It is likely to inflame and ignite tensions in other communities where race relations have been an enduring problem for all concerned.

Ludo Aequitas would like to see all aggrieved athletes coming together under the ludo banner and what it stands for. Across all divides, in a show of unity and hope going forward.

Ludo Aequitas – Equality Through Sport – welcomes your views and discussion

 

Images via thesun.com & newyorkpost.com

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