Attempting to stay in bounds

It has been nearly a month since Colin Kaepernick was first noticed for sitting out the national anthem. Many thought that his gesture and stance would be talked about for a few days and like many other things would fade. But Kaepernick’s movement has done everything but that.

INDIANA FEVER

On Wednesday, the WNBA’s Indiana Fever became the first professional sports team to take on the protest. Prior to its playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury, which eventually won the game, the entire team took a knee and linked arms during the national anthem. They were even joined by two Mercury players Mistie Bass and Kelsey Bone.

This isn’t the first time that a WNBA team has spoken out either. In July, prior to Kaepernick, players for the Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty, Fever and Mercury players wore T-shirts with messages seeking change following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

TEXAS YOUTH FOOTBALL TEAM

The movement has gained many supporters at the high school and youth level. Unfortunately these athletes aren’t immune to the backlash that comes with being involved in such a high-profile protest.

A youth football team is receiving death threats after deciding as a team to take a knee prior to a game on Sept. 11 in Beaumont, Texas. The decision to protest was brought up by the children ages 11-12 and was supported by the coaches and parents. According to a mother whose son is on the team, online comments have said their “coaches and players should be lynched. They should have burned in 9/11. There are people who are saying the n-word.”

Some say the kids don’t know what they are kneeling for, but these kids aren’t blind to what is going on around the country.

On Tuesday, Kaepernick came out saying that he has received death threats.

“To me, if something like that were to happen, you’ve proved my point and it will be loud and clear for everyone why it happened and that would move this movement forward at a greater speed than what it is even now,” Kaepernick said. “Granted, I don’t want that to happen, but that’s the realization of what could happen, and I knew there were other things that came along with this when I first stood up and spoke about it. That’s not something I haven’t thought about.”

How is this right? You may not agree with Kaepernick’s and others motives or methods, but when is it ever OK to threaten someone’s life because of it? People making death threats to Kaepernick and anyone else who have knelt in support of him are only fueling the fire.

CAM NEWTON

During a press conference Wednesday night, the Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton fielded questions regarding racial issues despite normally being hesitant. His comments came a day after the fatal shooting of Keith L. Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, which sparked protests throughout the city.

“We all have to hold each other accountable,” Newton said. “I’m a firm believer of justice. I’m a firm believer of doing the right thing. And I can’t repeat it enough of just holding people accountable. … I am not happy with what or how the justice has been kind of dealt with over the years.”

Newton has not joined the Kaepernick movement, but he is the latest NFL player to come forward and make a statement regarding the need for change. During the press conference he asked the same question that Kaepernick did in one of his first interviews: how do police on a leave of absence still get paid?

The reigning NFL MVP has commented on social issues before and knows the backlash that often comes with it. He called the place that he stands along with many other athletes a lose-lose.

The Right to Sit

Before the Niners’ preseason game on Aug. 26 against the Green Bay Packers, Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand for the national anthem. Since then his name has been in news headlines and he is trending on Twitter.

What is the problem with choosing not to stand? The No. 1 argument is that it is disrespectful to our county, our flag and our military. But there is no law saying that U.S. citizens are required to stand when the “Star-Spangled Banner” is played. We aren’t the only country who stands when their national anthem is played. When other countries’ anthems are played, we are taught to stand out of a sign of respect. But what happens when that country isn’t respecting its citizens? Does that country still deserve a standing ovation?

Kaepernick chose not to stand for the national anthem because he believes that America isn’t living up to what it was founded on.

“Ultimately, it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what is really going on in this country,” Kaepernick said following the game. “There are a lot of things going on that is unjust, people aren’t being held accountable, and that is something that needs to change. This country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all and that’s not happening right now.”

The main issue I’ve come to find from people who aren’t happy with Kaepernick’s stance is that it disrespects the military. Well, that’s not true. By choosing not to stand for the national anthem you are not disrespecting the U.S. military, you are exercising the very right that men and women in uniform have served and sacrificed for.

The First Amendment specifically states the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably assemble. It is this amendment and the remainder of the constitution that our military is fighting for. They fight so that we all have the right to do what Kaepernick chose to do. If you don’t believe me, check out #VeteransForKaepernick.

In his Donkey of the Day segment, Charlamagne tha God chose Kaepernick as his Aug. 29 donkey. And in that radio segment he brought up a good point, the flag represents a system and America is a business — “like any place of employment, when you promise your employees certain rights and don’t deliver, those employees have the right to speak out and demand what is promised.”

Kaepernick is demanding what the United States of America has promised ALL of its citizens because now not ALL of us are receiving those so-called promises.

Kaepernick is one of several athletes who have spoken out on the issues of police brutality and the system of racism that still exists in this country. But there is something that separates Kaepernick from the ESPY speech of Carmello Anthony, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul. There is something that sets Kaepernick apart from all the rest. He is forcing you to take a side, forcing you to acknowledge that there needs to be some real change.

I think what many people need to ask themselves regarding the controversy — are you upset because he isn’t standing or are you upset with his reasoning for not standing? If the issue is solely with him not standing then, heads up, it is not an act of patriotism if we “need” to stand and if standing is the requirement you aren’t being patriotic for doing so. If your problem with Kaepernick’s stance is in regards to what he is standing for, then you are un-American for thinking that not all of America’s citizens deserve the same treatment and the same rights. If you think that all of America’s citizens receive the same treatment and the same rights, then you are blind.

In his op-ed to the Washington Post, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar voiced his support for Kaepernick and called his act highly patriotic, “What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after (Muhammad) Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities.” Ali, Smith, and Carlos are all black athletes who were once considered controversial for their protests but have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. civil rights movement.

I guess the real question is should we as a country celebrate how far we’ve come in regards to equality or continue to work toward improvement because we still have a long way to go? For me, we must continue to work on it and, because of that, I will continue to sit alongside Kaepernick on this one.

 

When is enough…enough?

When is enough…enough? That is the question I asked myself Thursday morning. On July 21 the latest incident surrounding the 2016 Olympic Summer Game’s took place. 10 Brazilians were arrested for allegedly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State on social media and discussed possible attacks during the Games.

Sadly it comes as no surprise to me that this happened. Why wouldn’t ISIS try to find a way to target the Olympics? The attack would draw maximum media coverage as well as be highly symbolic.

On July 20, the SITE Intelligence group found out that jihadi terrorist groups had begun to use messaging apps to urge followers to attack the Olympics in Rio. Messages were even being distributed in Portuguese in an attempt to radicalize Brazilian citizens. This method has rarely been used in the past but you can count on ISIS to go to whatever lengths necessary.

The arrests were made in 10 different Brazilian states. Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said the individuals were “complete amateurs and ill-prepared” but that doesn’t make the situation any better.

Security for the Game’s has already come under extreme scrutiny. On June 3, CNN reported that gun battles are semi-regular occurrences in the host city. In the first four months of 2016 robberies increased by 24-percent and murders increased to 16-percent. Going along with murders, in June body parts washed up onto the beach where the beach volleyball events will be held and in May, Brazilian soccer star Rivaldo told his 400,000 plus Instagram followers not to attend the Olympics following the murder of a 17-year-old girl.

The financial crisis in the country even has police officers at wits end. Brazilian police officers upset with the lack of funding stepped up their public protests on July 6, greeting tourists at the Rio airport with signs that read “Welcome to hell” and “Whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.” But the Olympic committee continues to insist there will be 85,000 police and security deployed during the games. Brazil can’t even protect and control its own population, so why would I trust them to keep the millions of people traveling to the country, both athlete and spectator, safe?

The country has been in a state of political unrest for nearly two years now due to the financial crisis only getting worse. Riots both violent and not have been taking place throughout the country since 2014. Just take a look at what was going on during the 2014 World Cup.

When the Games begin on Aug. 5 the Olympic Committee will do its best to hide the social, political and physical upheaval that is taking place. But for those who have plans or are making plans to attend just know that you are stepping into a state of uncertainty on all fronts. In addition to the potential of violence and insecurity, there are cases for environmental breakdown and global pandemic.

Just two weeks out from the opening ceremonies it’s hard to believe that the Olympic Committee will heed the multiple requests in favor of cancelling/postponing the games. On that note I say keep the savings in the bank and plan for Tokyo 2020, Rio really isn’t worth the risks.

For a complete breakdown of everything that has gone wrong in the build up to the 2016 Summer Olympic Game’s read Christian D’Andrea’s article on SB Nation at http://www.sbnation.com/2016/7/15/12122676/olympic-games-2016-rio-zika-security-budget-brazil?yptr=yahoo.

Now is not the time to ‘stick to sports’

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Opening comments by Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and Lebron James. Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Last night was the ESPY Awards, and it solidified itself as my favorite awards show by not doing what some say it should have done — “stick to sports.” I used to use sports as my shield from the events that were going on around me. It’s easy to forget the troubles in the world when baseball’s All-Star week is happening.

It took me moving around the United States and traveling the world in the last two years for me to finally open my eyes. Today sports are no longer a wall keeping me in, and I’m learning just how valuable of a platform they can be. Part of my desire to become a journalist is the ability to enlighten and educate, but also the reach that one can have with readers and viewers. The reach as a journalist though doesn’t compare to the reach of lets say Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul took the stage Wednesday night to open the ESPYs with a very important message.

“The racial profiling has to stop,” Wade said. “The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But also the retaliation has to stop. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention in Orlando, it has to stop.”

Based off Twitter, not everyone was happy with the basketball stars’ opening statements. Some even went as far as saying they lost respect for the athletes, and to that I say shame on you. Athletes rarely take stands on issues because by doing so they are putting their brands on the line. For them speaking out can be a calculated decision.

Following the shootings last week, Anthony knew he had to say something, but he carefully thought out what that was going to be. When he approached his friends about making a statement at the awards. it took him days to figure out what exactly he wanted or rather needed to say.

The NBA stars aren’t the first to speak out about recent events. On Saturday, members of the Minnesota Lynx WNBA team wore T-shirts in solidarity of all recent events, and they too received an extreme backlash.

Unfortunately these players can no longer afford to be silent. It’s not a political statement for these athletes; as people of color they are affected regardless of the fact that they are professional athletes.

“There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone,” Anthony wrote in an Instagram post under the iconic photo from the 1967 Muhammad Ali Summit.

I have always felt that athletes have the responsibility to stand up and use their reach. Some of my favorite athletes are the ones that do so despite the repercussions. In an op-ed for The Guardian, Anthony calls for his fellow athletes to use their platform and their influence. While you may not agree with what they stand for today, don’t persecute them; one day you might want them to stand with you on something else.

The opener by the NBA ensemble wasn’t the only issue to be tackled Wednesday night. Breanna Stewart, the winner of the Best Female Athlete Award, as well as Abby Wambach, Icon Award winner, spoke out about gender equality.

And there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd after 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award posthumously. His mother, Zenobia Dobson, called for the country “to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on the families throughout America.” Dobson was the first of two minors from his family to be killed due to gun violence within the last year.

Play like a girl

Earlier this month I learned that 70-percent of kids are quitting sports by age 13. It’s a startling statistic but what I learned earlier this week is even more alarming. Of that original 70 percent, 47 percent are girls.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. And according to a survey sponsored by Always, by age 17, more than half of the girls, 51 percent, will have quit sports. More than 1,000 girls ages of 16 to 24 participated.

In last week’s column, I delved into the idea that sports just aren’t “fun anymore.” But with girls there seems to be a different driving factor. According to the Always survey, seven out of 10 girls quit sports during puberty because they felt like they didn’t belong. Another 67 percent said they felt society doesn’t encourage girls to play sports.

Not sure if you’ve heard of the #LikeAGirl campaign by Always, but it is these numbers that led to its creation. In the last year, Always has published multiple videos with the hope of inspiring girls to stay in the game. That is definitely something I can rally around.

No one can deny the benefits of sports in the lives of youth. The health benefits are just the beginning. Sports have the ability to teach us skills that can be used throughout the rest of our lives. With girls participating in sports at a lower rate than boys, they are missing out.

Confidence is the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when I think of what sports can offer all kids, but especially girls who deal with dramatic drops in confidence levels around puberty. Confidence is vital as we grow up, leave home and enter the workforce. Confidence is what we need in order to know our worth. One fact that has come about in trying to understand the gender pay gap is that women oftentimes underestimate their self worth. We are willing to work for less and we ask for less than men wanting the same position with the same skill set.

Learning to compete is another skill that sports teach. Oftentimes, girls are pushed away from competitive atmospheres because they aren’t deemed “ladylike.” Without a positive competitive atmosphere, girls inadvertently learn to feel guilty when their success outshines someone else’s. Once again this doesn’t help in the professional world where women continue to be outnumbered by men. Men are taught that competition is good and take fun in competing with friends on a day-to-day basis. From a young age, males turn everything and anything into a competition, girls are taught the opposite. This puts women at a disadvantage when trying to compete for senior roles.

According to a global study by Ernst & Young and espnW, 61 percent of female executives said sports contributed to their career and success. To add to that, 94 percent of women in the C-suite played sports, 52 percent at the university level.

Sports can also teach girls about teamwork and how to overcome adversity. And yet, girls feel that these skills aren’t meant for them. In a different national Always-sponsored survey, of 1,800 people, 89 percent of girls ages 16-24 feel there is pressure to conform to the way a girl is supposed to feel and act.

Its 2016, it’s been 44 years since Title IX was passed. Girls today have more opportunities than girls of the 1960s and yet the social and cultural stigmas from then have persisted.

The only way things are going to change is by changing how we as a society view gender roles. We need to believe and act upon the idea that girls and boys have the same capabilities and we need to prepare both for success in the same way.

For access to the surveys mentioned in this column visit, https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/home/support-us/do-you-know-the-factors-influencing-girls-participation-in-sports and http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160628005793/en.

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I was a part of the Michigan State Women’s Rowing team my freshman year of college.

Latest doping allegations could hurt anti-doping campaign

This is not the first time a sport’s anti-doping movement has come under scrutiny, but with what has come to light in the last year and last week, the World Anti-Doping Agency has some big decisions to make.

Just last week Russia’s former anti-doping director, Grigory Rodchenskov, came forward and admitted that he ran an organized doping program for Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, by helping switch tainted samples for clean ones.

Now the International Olympic Committee and WADA are partnering to carry out a full-fledged investigation planning to retest Sochi samples stored in Lausanne, Switzerland. It’s unsure how many tainted samples are still intact, though.

Russia’s track and field team is dealing with a suspension from global competition. Track and fields governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federation, banned the country after an investigation detailed state-sponsored doping, corruption and coverups in the program. The federation has yet to make a decision on whether the ban will be lifted prior to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

If the investigation into the Sochi Olympics turns out to be true, I think the IOC needs to ban Russia as a whole from competing this year. Russian authorities have gone on record saying they support the crackdown but that only specific individuals should see the repercussions. In this case, however, it wasn’t individual athletes choosing to make the wrong decision. It was supported and encouraged, and if it weren’t for members of the state hiding the truth, the athletes would have been caught then not now.

Fast forward to this week and retesting stretching back eight years has caught 31 athletes from 12 different countries and six different sports for doping prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The IOC has opened disciplinary proceedings for the athletes who were planning to take part in the 2016 Games. And it doesn’t stop there. Retesting of samples for athletes from the 2012 Summer Games in London hoping to compete in Rio will also take place, opening the possibility for more athletes to be banned.

These findings are horrible for the international sports community and for the World Anti-Doping Agency. While the association prides itself on being the “organization for clean sport” and “protecting clean athletes,” without a crackdown after recent findings it may need to find a new slogan.

Athletes competing on the global stage open their bodies to drug testing with hopes of competing on a level playing field. When certain athletes are taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s not a level playing field.

I see where WADA and the IOC are currently standing as a crossroads. The way they choose to handle this situation could go two very different ways. One option is to crack down and crack down hard. Make athletes who cheat realize they are never safe. Make athletes realize that doping isn’t worth it due to the intense repercussions. The other route is going light on Russia and other individuals who have disobeyed the rules. If the organizations fail to crack down this time around, athletes will continue to take the risk and more athletes will start to do so.

The question is will the playing field be balanced by cutting down the number of athletes doping or will it be leveled by more athletes choosing to take performance-enhancing drugs?

Impeachment, Zika and the Olympics

We are 84 days out from the opening ceremony of the 2016 summer Olympics, and until yesterday I had completely forgot. I laughed at myself when I realized I forgot about the world’s largest sporting event, but the thing is there is way too much going on in Rio de Janeiro already.

Rio has been slated to be the 2016 host since 2006. Four years ago, when the summer games were wrapping up in London, I was ready for 2016. Currently sitting less than three months out, part of me wishes the event would get postponed.

This should have been a monumental Olympic Games. It is the first to be hosted by a South American country. Because of this fact it will still be monumental, but for issues that the media has brought to our attention in the past year not concerning the Games, the event will be out-shined and overlooked.

The first thing on the table is the Zika virus. It began to make headlines in the summer 2015 when Brazil became the first country in the America’s to suffer an outbreak. Originally all that was known about the virus was that it was extremely harmful to pregnant women and babies. But now it seems that the virus can spread through sexual relations, and not just pregnant women are at risk. Just earlier this month the United States suffered its first fatality from Zika.

Doctors have warned that the 2016 Olympic Games could spark a “full-blown public health disaster.” Dr. Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa wrote in the Harvard Public Health Review on May 12 that the games could speed up the spread of the virus and suggested changing the location of the event or even postponing it.

It’s too close to the games for any containment efforts to be successful at this point, but Brazil has failed drastically at trying to contain the virus since the onset.

While health is of growing concern for athletes and spectators, joining Zika at the table is political unrest. After a 20-hour senate session, Brazil’s governing body announced Thursday morning that it reached the decision to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. The vote was 55-22 in favor of impeachment. The trial could last as long as six months, which will suspend Rousseff from her duties during the games.

In office since 2011, Rousseff has helped continue the 13-year reign of “The Workers Party” by continuing to pull millions of people out of poverty. The funny thing is the country is in its deepest recession since the 1930s. With one of the largest economies in the world, Brazil has the ability to hurt world markets.

The country has been sorting through the mess of a potential impeachment for months, and uncontrollable protests have been a regular occurrence. There is no sign that things could change in terms of unrest prior to the opening ceremony.

To top the table off we are adding a $3 billion corruption scandal by state run oil giant, Petrobras. Waters are polluted where events such as sailing and rowing will take place. The state of Rio de Janeiro chopped $550 million from its security budget. The cut of about 20 percent won’t be good if protests become more out of control. And lastly, the state made $500 million cuts to balance the operating budget. How can the country be secure enough to host the Olympics?

On the plus side, if you are interested in going to the 2016 Summer Games, ticket sales are down, so you just might be able to find a great deal.