In The Scope: MLK Initiative Still Carries In Sports 50 Years After Death

“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is  a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR 

April 4, 1968 marked the death anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest American heroes.

As we commemorate King’s lifelong striving for social justice 50 years after his assassination, many also wonder if his dream of the people of the United States living in an equal society with equal rights reflects today’s reality? The answer is no. Here is why.

We are not equal when a minority race is being targeted and annihilated generation by generation through law enforcement. During Jim Crow, there were mass amounts of incarceration against the black man and high usages of police brutality and discrimination was displayed. Nothing has changed, only transformed.

According to the Guardian, black men between the ages of 15 and 34 are nine times more likely than any other American to be killed by law enforcement, which is also a rate four times than a young white male. In everyday Chicago-life between 2010 and 2015, four out of five African-American males were killed by police and out of 435 shootings, officers killed 92 people and wounded 170 others.

According to the NAACP, in 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34 percent, of the total 6.8 million correctional population. African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women. African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost six times that of whites. African Americans represent 12.5 percent of illicit drug users, but 29 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 33 percent of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.

We are also not equal when we cannot work together due to different political viewpoints. Professional athletes, especially in the NFL, are prime examples of this.

LeBron James was told to shut up and dribble by a news anchor for his comments on his dislike for President Trump as the leader of the country.

Former athlete Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf protested against the anthem during his tenure in the NBA and was fined by the league before changing his protest format.

Michael Sam became the first open gay player in the NFL, and he did not last a full season. The concept of being gay in the NFL is so degrading that the league questions draft prospects every year about their sexuality.

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick started a social movement protesting against the injustices that are being displayed against black and brown young men across the country. Many owners threatened their players from participating and President Trump even got involved, calling Kaepernick and other protesting athletes like them “sons of b*****” and asking for them to be fired.

Since the movement, the league has been divided. Many teams are signing quarterbacks that have not been in the league since 2015 and do not have the career stats as Kaepernick, just so they do not have to tolerate the political uproar Kaepernick is shedding light on.

Equality may not be shown everyday in the workplace, but King taught us that no matter the platform, we should use our platform for good, and that has been very transparent in the world of sports. Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul have all been advocates of social justice in their communities and used their platforms to speak out against police brutality targeting African-Americans while also investing their money and time into their foundations to help lead a generation of youth to strive for equality. They also recently helped send youth to Washington D.C. to participate in the gun law protests.

Kaepernick started the Know Your Rights initiative. James created UNINTERUPTED to give athletes access to discuss police brutality and other social justice issues across the country while also paying 41 million dollars for 1,100 Akron students to go to college and opening “I, Promise” public school through the Akron School District.

Through historical efforts, King raised generational athlete activists, role models that he would approve for putting their careers on the line to raise social consciousness and promote justice. MLK’s dream of equality may be constituted in law, but the application of ‘Justice For All’ is un-exercised, which is all more the reason we should follow the same leads as our sports role models in carrying out King’s initiative and make his dream a true reality.

Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio

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