Black Community: 2023 reminded us that sports are important but not life and death.

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( One of the best things about being a sports fan is that sports are an opportunity of some semblance of escapism. Seeing talented athletes perform on the court, field, or area of play at a high level can be jaw-dropping and remind adult sports fans of their childhood playing that sport for the first time or watching pro sports for the first time as a kid. 2023 had its share of outstanding athletic performances from both a team and individual level including the NBA’s Denver Nuggets winning their first NBA championship, the Texas Longhorns women’s volleyball team earning back-to-back Division I volleyball titles, and the two-way talents of Major League Baseball’s Shohei Ohtani having another absurdly productive MLB season as a pitcher and hitter before getting a record-setting contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers months later as a free agent.

Black Community: 2023 reminded us that sports are important but not life and death.

Ultimately, spectator sports are not the complete “escape” from the “real world” or politics that many claim because politics are in everything. Spectator sports are a business run by billionaires and corporations that face deserved criticism for their treatment of workers. 2023 saw strikes in the entertainment industry and workers’ strikes across the globe as workers recognize they are the talent and engine that makes any industry run. The everyday person can never completely relate to millionaire professional athletes but should never side with the billionaire sports owners over professional athletes when it comes to financial negotiations.

The return of basketball star Brittney Griner to the WNBA for its 2023 season was one of the early stories of 2023 as Griner was detained in Russian prison for almost a year on drug charges. Her plight generated discussions about political prisoners in the U.S. and the call for their release. The geopolitics of the Brittney Griner story also show that the U.S. carceral system isn’t the only one that needs a major overhaul as millions of people are incarcerated instead of being rehabilitated.

Professional sports have become more and more global than ever before with many athletes from across the world participating in major pro sports leagues in the U.S. and other countries. Africans born in the U.S. and throughout the diaspora have faced discrimination and bigotry since the inception of white supremacy and it reared its ugly head on soccer fields repeatedly in 2023. As the great Malcolm X said, “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, that doesn’t make them biscuits.” All Africans of the African diaspora are African regardless of where they were born or “grew up”.

Whenever a life-threatening situation comes up such as with Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on-field or the passing of Olympian Tori Bowie while pregnant or the deaths of members of the Georgia Bulldogs football team and staff due to speeding in a vehicle, it serves that athletes have lives well beyond that of athletics. The oppressive and deadly violence faced by Africans in the Congo and Sudan and faced by the Palestinians in occupied Palestine by Zionist Israel also could not be avoided by turning to sports as an “escape”. Several professional sports teams, leagues, and athletes aligned publicly with oppressive regimes and systemic violence over the historically marginalized. However, some athletes took different stances and reminded people that we must care about the well-being of the most marginalized, vulnerable people first and evaluate them through the lens of their well-deserved freedom from oppression.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines