A young person who enjoys the sports of football and baseball has seen more than just action on the field in recent years. He or she would have observed athletes protesting and controversy about players using the platform for that purpose. If a kid dug a little deeper, he or she might have become aware of the underlying issues. Those include the treatment by society in general, and law enforcement in particular, of African Americans in the U.S. The debate also includes discussion, often heated, about whether such protests disrespect the sacrifices of police officers and veterans.
A young person could watch such goings-on and be understandably confused about how to view men and women in uniform, whether that uniform includes a badge or a helmet.
The issues are polarizing. The reality is nuanced. Calm discourse might often be missing, though it is much needed. Kavon Frazier of the Dallas Cowboys, featured in the video interview that is the centerpiece of this blog post, teamed with Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman (and her son TJ Cline, also a professional basketballer) to try to create some positive interactions this past Saturday. They hosted an event at the Northpark Under Armour store in Dallas that put young people from their respective sports camps in close proximity to policemen and women from a number of local jurisdictions. The job of the officers was to help the kids spend gift cards on clothes and shoes, but it was most importantly to interact with the young people and let each see the humanity in the other.
As Frazier notes in the interview, it’s important for the children to see both officers and athletes as people. Perhaps they’ll learn they can’t lump entire classes of people into one bucket and assume they’ll all act the same as the next person in their profession. Perhaps they’ll pick up on the notion that each detective, or strong safety, or power forward is an individual with his or her own family, own outlook, and, often, own concerns for the community as a whole. And that, perhaps, will prepare them to participate in their sport and their society in a more sensitive and thoughtful way than they otherwise would.