May the change be genuine!

Olympic fencing medallist Race Imboden took a knee in protest during his team’s foil medal ceremony at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru on August 9, 2019.

Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, on June 8 in Colorado Springs, announced the creation of an “athlete-led group to challenge the rules and systems in our own organization that create barriers to progress, including your right to protest.”

The assassination of George Floyd was apparently required for the Olympic sports governing body in the United States to contribute to alleviating the racial situation in the country, exacerbated by Donald Trump since his arrival to the Presidency in January 2017, with his recriminations of Black athletes, despite the glory they have brought to the nation.

Let us recall that, at the time of Hirshland’s statement, not even a year had passed since she sent a letter reprimanding hammer throw champion Gwen Berry, and fencer Race Imboden, gold medal winners at the Pan American Games in Lima-2019, censuring them for protesting racial discrimination on the awards podium – Berry with a raised fist, and Imboden with a knee to the ground.

The reprimand also contained the warning that gestures, such as those she criticized, would not be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics. Some say, “Better late than never,” but it is undeniable that social pressure, demonstrations and other problems that U.S. society is experiencing today, including the pandemic and increasing unemployment, are at the root of this sudden change proposed by the leadership of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. May the interest in overcoming centuries of oppression be genuine!

Hirshland was obliged to state, addressing Black athletes in the United States, “For decades you have spoken about equality and unity and sacrificed your moment on the podium to call for change. And we have failed to listen and tolerated racism and inequality. I am sorry. You deserve better.”

Trump himself has clashed with athletes who, upon winning championships, have not accepted the invitation to visit the White House. Puerto Rican baseball player Carlos Beltran was among those who refused to attend, frustrated by the current administration’s poor record in helping his country recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Basketball, football, and baseball players are among the dozens of athletes who disagree with the President and have no qualms about publicly expressing their rejection of his actions.

On the last day of George Floyd’s funeral, in Houston, the city where he grew he was honoured by members of the Texans NFL football team, among many other residents. Former world boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, who covered the event’s cost, also attended.

Civil Right leader and Baptist minister Al Sharpton spoke at the service, denouncing racism and those who have denied Colin Kaepernik the chance to play in the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem in protest, “Don’t apologize,” Sharpton said, “Give Kaepernik his job back… Don’t come with some empty apology.”

There are many injustices to be redressed. May Hirshland’s statement that the U. S. Olympic Committee intends to join the fight against racial discrimination be confirmed in action!

Granma, Havana

Related reading on this web site

A fist raised and a knee taken: US gold medalists Gwen Berry and Race Imboden protest racism, social injustice

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