This year in American sports was more of a movement than a time of athletic achievement. It was also about staying safe from COVID-19, speaking out for Black Lives Matter, racial justice and political activism, and opposing systemic racism and voter suppression. The New York Times’ review of the year gives deference to off-the-court/field issues over championships won.
The NYT story by Liz Robbins says the “troubled, truncated 2020 sports season” will be remembered as the Year of the Bubble. A pandemic raged on and protests of systemic racism rocked the United States, but athletes played on.
2020 was about more than finding a way to play, Robbins writes. The Florida bubbles of the WNBA and NBA projected the voices of the players in support of Black Lives Matter after the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Super Bowl and NBA championships took a back seat to boycotted games in multiple sports due to the Jacob Blake shooting. George Hill of the Milwaukee Bucks demanded that the Wisconsin Legislature convene to discuss police reform. Kneeling, protest and social justice slogans spread from U.S. athletes and leagues around the world to international sports.
In 2020, LeBron James fought against voter suppression. African American NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace found a noose in a race car garage (The Wall Street Journal exposed the truth: it was only a rope handle used to open a garage door, not a hate crime), Los Angeles Clippers then-coach Doc Rivers gave a teary speech about his fear of being a Black man. Sarah Fuller made a few kicks for the Vanderbilt football team in a giant leap for womankind.
There was much more of this nonsense. Pro basketball courts in the bubbles displayed the words “Black Lives Matter.” WNBA players openly campaigned for pro-abortion Georgia Democrat Senate candidate Ralph Warnock – and against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, who dared question the league’s infatuation with BLM. “The NHL made strides in addressing racism.” NFL helmets and end zones portrayed social justice slogans.
Robbins’ review of the year in sports credits Chris Paul, president of the NBA Players Association, for saying the record presidential voter turnout and Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over President Trump (a critic of the NBA) “should make players proud.”
In Robbins’ world, college sports “failed to hold the pretense of the student-athlete experience” while its athletes “were essentially unpaid laborers during a pandemic” who negotiated for their name, image and likeness, which the NCAA still has to approve.
Looking ahead, Robbins writes that the next lightning rod on the social justice front could be the Olympic movement. The U.S. Olympic Committee recently bowed to pressure from SJW athletes and cleared the way for them to shame their country at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The gutless USOC also apologized for previously punishing hammer thrower Gwen Berry for raising a fist in protest of the U.S. during the 2018 Pan American Games.
This largely sports-less review of the year in sports closes with a quote by Nneka Ogwumike, a forward with the Los Angeles Sparks and president of the WNBA Players Association, who said: “It’s wonderful to see that in a world in which debris is just falling everywhere, you still have these special moments. They are not moments, themselves; they are movements.”