This time of year generally finds our shared attention falling on football and, at least during even-numbered years, politics. Given it’s 2020, it’s consequently no surprise these pursuits have become interwoven to the extent Baylor University’s football team, to the anger of some but admiration of others, agreed one day last week amidst strife nationwide to forgo practice and, with the blessing and participation of Coach Dave Aranda, instead march across this resolutely Christian campus to make a simple statement on racial justice. The demonstration culminated in prayer, not violence. Nor was this just African-American athletes pressing an issue that will impact them more than some of us different in color and graying about the temples; white football players showed solidarity with teammates, making clear their own expectations of making America far greater than it is today.
If this rattles fans who believe Baylor football players ought to stick to practice and football, they haven’t been paying attention to the fast-widening racial divide across America. Yes, professional athletes have taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem in recent years, but many right-wing politicians, instead of trying to unite citizenry and earnestly tackle the issue of police brutality in their own arena of policy, have doubled down and further politicized matters, neglecting the very reason for athletes taking a knee (where and when it’s even happened at all) and howling that such demonstrations are anti-military, anti-flag and anti-country, proving only the veracity of Dr. Johnson’s famous definition of patriotism. And Baylor football players aren’t alone in their civil appeal; concerned student athletes in recent days have mounted similar demonstrations at Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Mississippi and Oklahoma. And Monday yet other Baylor athletes showed support for the cause championed by the football players, describing their demonstration as more about conversation and reflection than politics. Again, no violence.
As campus officials forever tell us, Baylor is more than football. It’s about preparing rising generations through history, philosophy, science, ethics and faith to improve upon what we’ve given them. This summer, amidst what some label a “racial reckoning,” the university’s regents — some fairly conservative in their politics — nonetheless recognized the greater societal wound in America and selflessly set in motion a welcome if overdue dialogue on racism as it has infected Baylor’s founders, history and campus actions at what is, after all, the oldest continually operating university in Texas. If older Americans resent even up-and-coming generations’ prayerful plea for a nation where suspects, whatever their hue, whatever their alleged crime (if any), aren’t shot in the back seven times, then these older Americans should reconsider the self-delusion obscuring ugly truths not only about their own generation but the state of affairs they have left these students.
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