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African-American sports voices speak out against social injustice: Many say lots and others say less

 

Throughout the past two weeks, the nation has spoken out, many in horror, following the death of George Floyd.

Prominent sports voices of color who preside over influential platforms took leading roles publicly, expressing their views on racial injustices.

The global movement of #BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013, following the murder of Trayvon Martin. The Black Lives Matter mission works to combat police brutality, economic injustice, violence and unfairness, targeted toward the Black community, while fighting for equality and improvement in Black lives. In recent weeks, the BLM movement has been recognized more than ever through global protests, email, social media activism, research and listening.

These are recent posts by leading African-American sports announcers:

Please note! This rundown covers only comments and posts found on public platforms and quotes from articles available online. This is not in any way intended to reflect the views of these broadcasters, whether publicly expressed or not. It’s important to note too that some broadcasters, their races or genders not withstanding, simply don’t engage at all on social media, not on this matter or others.

In alphabetical order. Comments in bold are public posts:

Charles Barkley  (Turner/CBS)

Barkley does not appear to have personal social media platforms, but he has been quoted in several articles. He made a statement on CNN on why ‘it’s stressful being black.’ This quote refers to several recent incidents targeting people of color. He touched on the painful aspects of Floyd’s murder. He also stated that as a nation, “We’ve been ready to have these conversations.” In a Yahoo! Sports article on June 5, Barkley also spoke out in response to Drew Brees’ comments and apology, saying it was insensitive, but disagreed with how much he was criticized afterward.

James Brown (CBS)

James Brown has been visible on Twitter during this time through retweeting messages promoting ‘uncomfortable conversations’ and the BLM movement. He posted a black square with a heart to his Instagram grid with the caption: #blackouttuesday #thegreatestgiftislove #loveoverhate 🖤.  

Nate Burleson (CBS and NFL Network) 

In response to Drew Brees’ comments and apology, Nate Burleson shared his own personal heartbreaking story of his grandfather’s murder as a result of police brutality. He acknowledged that “his America” is different from Brees’ America, and that is the problem. On Instagram, he posted: 𝐃𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐃𝐫𝐞𝐰 ~ 𝐒𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐋𝐨𝐯𝐞 #ZoomOut 𝐌𝐲 𝐆𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐟𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐉𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐞 𝐁𝐮𝐫𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐧, 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐝𝐥𝐲. 𝐔𝐧𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐰𝐡𝐨’𝐬 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐧 𝐝𝐮𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐛𝐫𝐮𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲. 𝐈𝐧 𝟏𝟗𝟕𝟏…𝟏𝟎𝐲𝐫𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧, 𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐦 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐲. 𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐲 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐟𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 & 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐦𝐮𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐥𝐚𝐰𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐩𝐬. *𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭 & 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 ~ 𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐍𝐊 𝐘𝐎𝐔* #UntoldStoriesByUs. On May 29, Burelson tweeted: “Honesty has the power that very few can handle but the whole world needs to hear!” 

Freddie Coleman (ESPN Radio) 

ESPN’s Freddie Coleman delved into Drew Brees’ comment and apology on his show, which he promotes daily on Twitter. During this time, his feed has ranged from sports updates: A FULL College Football season?  WHO said that?  Listen Live NOW w/@Ianfitzespn on @ESPNRadiohttp://espn.com/espnradio/index & @SIRIUSXM Channel 80; to retweeting statements in support of BLM. He has also encouraged people to engage in ‘uncomfortable conversations’ @WMoon1 on speaking of the UNCOMFORTABLE conversation that many avoid to stay comfortable. Listen Live NOW on @ESPNRadiohttp://espn.com/espnradio/index & @SIRIUSXM Channel 80

Charles Davis (CBS)

New CBS Analyst Charles Davis has tweeted since the death of George Floyd, but the content does not have to do with anything related. He tweeted about SportsStarsTV, but he did “like” tweets emphasizing the systemic racism in America. His latest tweet honors the late coach Ken Riley, formerly of FAMU: Take your rest, Coach Riley. Another wonderful person that left his mark, and will be greatly missed. Made a real impact on my life.

Tony Dungy (NBC) 

Tony Dungy was featured in Mike Tirico’s Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN and said “This is going to be done by a change of hearts, and the only way that’s going to happen is communication — talk, listening and trying to see everyone’s point of view.” He has posted several times on social media. Following rioting and looting in Tampa, Dungy tweeted, Last night was a very tough night in America. We need something to bring us together.  We need empathy. We need to listen. And we need to care about each other. Even those we might disagree with. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 NIV. Coach Dungy has participated in peaceful marches in Tampa.

 *Greg Gumbel (CBS) 

Older brother of Bryant Gumbel, Greg Gumbel is a sportscaster for CBS. He does not appear to be visible in the media at this time.

*Bryant Gumbel (HBO)

HBO’s Bryant Gumbel is not reluctant to express his opinion, as evidenced in his previous confrontation with the late NBA commissioner David Stern. He called Stern a “plantation overseer” in 2011. Six years later, in 2017, Stern publicly said “I have done more for people of color” than Gumbel. Gumbel doesn’t appear to be visible on social media or to have made any public comments available online regarding the events in the past few weeks.

*Rodney Harrison (NBC)

NBC’s Rodney Harrison does not appear in the media or on social media at this time.

Jemele Hill   (Revolt TV) 

Activist and journalist Jemele Hill is the host of Spotify’s original podcast, titled “Jemele Hill is Unbothered” and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. In an interview with CNN, Hill said “While I am just as stunned to see the commissioner (NFL’s Roger Goodell) apologize, the person who really deserves an apology is Colin Kaepernick, because the league left him hanging out to dry.”

As always, Hiill has been active on Twitter during this time, fighting for justice. On June 4th, she tweeted in response to Drew Brees: As Drew Brees and Florida State coach Mike Norvell are finding out, the worst thing you can be at a time like this is, fake. On June 5th, she promoted activism and education to combat racism: So white folks: Y’all been asking me how you can be educated: watch Ava’s @13THFilm and @WhenTheySeeUs. She stood in support with Ben and Jerry’s statement by sharing it and tweeting: .@benandjerrys just put all other corporate statements to shame. THIS is how you put out a statement. Ben & Jerry’s statement was detailed with the history of police brutality and racism in America. Hill has shared empowering videos to her Instagram, encouraging the energizing protests and change in America.

Michael Irvin (NFL Network) 

Irvin has not posted on Instagram about George Floyd since May 26. He expressed his sadness following Ahmaud Arbury’s death on May 7, saying “WOW!! How sad!!! It takes all this social media outrage to get an investigation.” Irvin has been more active on Twitter. He has emphasized the importance of unity on June 4th and tweeted Let’s keep coming together (Praying and Protesting)to stop the narrow minded racist people that will pull our Country and our people down. He also spoke out on the Rich Eisen Show about the events in the past week, saying that he has been amazed with people unifying and coming out to fight the racial injustices, especially during COVID-19. He believes that we are making progress towards change.

Mark Jackson (ESPN)

Mark Jackson has been out in California protesting for justice on multiple occasions, as seen on social media. He has posted the protests to his Instagram, as well as a #blackouttuesday post. On June 3, Jackson tweeted a video of him protesting with the caption: Enough!!!

*Gus Johnson (Fox Sports) 

Johnson has seemed to remain out of the limelight on Twitter since May 25, the date of George Floyd’s death. He has not “liked” any tweets. He does not appear to have an Instagram account.

Mark Jones (ESPN) 

On May 31, ESPN’s Mark Jones posted a video on Instagram at a Fort Lauderdale protest for BLM. He has been very active on Twitter, demanding for racial justice and an end to police brutality. He also commended Drew Brees’ apology on Twitter and seems to be optimistic about change. On June 6th, he tweeted The White House address is now: 1600 Black Lives Matter Plaza NW. Washington,DC. 20500. Thank you DC Mayor Muriel Bowser for renaming 16th St. #BlackLivesMattter Plaza

Booger McFarland (ESPN)

ESPN’s Booger McFarland is active on Twitter and that has not changed during this time. He has retweeted statements supporting the BLM movement. On June 3, McFarland tweeted “No matter how much money you give or good things you do it doesn’t take the place of listening to the issues at hand.” He also responded several times to Drew Brees’ comments and apology. In response to his apology, McFarland wrote “Im sorry for the way that America is crucifying me , I’m not sorry for what I said.  Got it.”  After Brees spoke against President Trump, McFarland tweeted “My feelings on @drewbrees r well documented this week, however I will give him credit for confronting the Pres. directly that the sons of bitches he spoke of are the same guys that Brees will help advocate for black lives, never about the flag & more should say that.”

Curt Menefee (Fox) 

NFL Fox host Curt Menefee spoke out on Twitter and Instagram. He posted a black square on his grid in #blackouttuesday. He posted a video on June 1st to Twitter and Instagram, expressing that, now seemed to be the most productive time for himself to finally speak out. He spoke from his heart about personal experiences with people of color who had been beaten in the neighborhood growing up and his anger toward racism in America. Menefee also mentioned how he has cousins in the police force and he is optimistic and hopeful for change. On May 30th, Menefee tweeted: Having grown up in inner city Atlanta, & with relatives who are police officers, I couldn’t support @KillerMike & mayor @KeishaBottoms any more than after their on the mark presser tonight. Its ok to to not have a hashtag & just say “I’m pissed & trying to find the right words”

 

*Pam Oliver (Fox) 

Pam Oliver does not appear to be visible in the media at this time.

 

Shaquille O’Neal (Turner) 

 In an article on CNBC In January of this year, Shaq expressed why he doesn’t typically speak out publicly on issues. He was quoted in the article saying, “I don’t speak out and I don’t disrespect people.” Shaq has been quieter on Twitter since the death of George Floyd and hasn’t “liked” any tweets since May 13th. He did join in on Instagram, posting a black square on #blackouttuesday, using the hashtag #justiceforgeorgefloyd in his caption.

Robin Roberts (Formerly ESPN, GMA -ABC)

Roberts has been active on social media, speaking out on her Twitter, Instagram and Facebook platforms. On Twitter, she has sent messages of prayer through her #MondayMotivation video on June 1st. On June 3d, she also tweeted “so much raw emotion felt all across the nation this morn” With approximately 687K followers on Instagram, Roberts has shared wise videos stimulated encouragement and hope. She also participated in #blackouttuesday by posting a black square on Instagram. She has shared video clips on Facebook that have incorporated wisdom as she expressed that many families are beginning to have uncomfortable conversations.

*Lisa Salters (ESPN)

 ESPN’s Lisa Salters has not been visible on Twitter or in the media during this time.

Shannon Sharpe (Fox) 

Shannon Sharpe has been active on social media. On June 5th, he tweeted: “We’ve turned the other cheek for 400+ yrs. How about you stop slapping me in my damn face & I won’t have to turn my cheek? They take our kindness for weakness. I’m tired of forgiving. You don’t have to go to Harvard to know you shouldn’t treat people the way we’ve been treated.” On May 29th, he tweeted: “The Boston Tea Party was about taxation w/o representation. White ppl got tired of their voices not being heard & protested (rioted). Blacks want their voices heard so they protest (riot) & now it serves no purpose. White ppl riot, nothing is more American than protests (riots).” On June 4th, Sharpe told Fox News that “he will never respect” Drew Brees again and that his apology was “meaningless.”

Dave Sims (Seattle Mariner) 

Former NY Daily News writer shared his support, retweeting several posts and articles encouraging peaceful protests. One tweet that sticks out was: “Well done Seattle! Just heard that Chief of Police, Carmen Best, has called off the 9p curfew, because protesters continue to march peacefully. Bravo!!!” Sims was also featured in an article in The Seattle Times, discussing the horrific events and wrote “I am them, and they are me.” 

Kenny Smith (Turner) 

On June 6th, the TNT analyst was featured in Steve Sterby’s New York Post article discussing racial injustice. In response to answering what his message would be to white people, he said “My job is not to educate white Americans. That’s not my burden.” He is not as active as others on Twitter, but on June 4th tweeted: Appreciate the voices being heard tonight on @NBAonTNT .. ” He posted a #blackouttuesday square to his Instagram and also honored George Floyd in a separate post with his name. 

Stephen A. Smith (ESPN)

The journalist and commentator has used his social media platforms to advocate and speak out to his millions of followers. Beginning on May 29th, his Instagram has been filled with strong video speeches, photos and powerful captions responding to racial injustice in America. He even responded to Drew Brees’ comment about other players protesting by kneeling during the national anthem. In a video reaction, Smith said he was quite surprised as to how tone-deaf it was, but that he actually didn’t mind that it happened because “it’s further evidence as to why we should act as we are right now.” He viewed Brees’ comment and apology as an educational moment. Smith has also been extremely active on Twitter, speaking out every few hours on his platform about his feelings on racial inequality in America. He is completely supporting protests, but not the riots, and on June 1, he tweeted “Keep on MARCHING. By all means, MARCH….. PEACEFULLY!!!” He has also responded on Facebook through video messages. As a proud HBCU grad (Winston Salem), Smith has posted about historically black colleges and universities and tweeted that he will “always support HBCU’s.” Additionally, he has spoken out on ESPN Radio and ESPN’s First Take.

Sage Steele (ESPN) 

On May 31, she tweeted: “There is a huge difference between protesting and rioting/looting. She has retweeted statements supporting the BLM movement, including the NFL’s statement. She joined in the Instagram campaign of #blackouttuesday. She also shared Doug Glanville’s moving essay titled “Enough,” which was inspired by George Floyd and the nation’s response.

Michael Strahan (Fox) 

On June 4th, Strahan posted on Instagram and Twitter with the caption: “Took the time to really put together some of my thoughts. Hope you can take a few minutes to listen.” It was accompanied by a video of his thoughts, in which he expressed his frustration and anger with his own racial experiences. He also emphasized that he does not agree with the looting and rioting, but completely supports the peaceful protests. He also posted a #blackouttuesday square to his grid.

Maria Taylor (ESPN) 

Atlanta’s Maria Taylor has passionately voiced her opinions on Twitter and Instagram.  She responded to Drew Brees’ comments and apology on “First Take” saying that “if you had empathy in your heart, you would know that the Black experience has not been easy” and that his “empathy was off.” She voiced that Brees was dragged through trolls on social media before realizing that what he said was wrong. Following her statements, she received random, angry and harassing text messages, which she shared on Twitter. On June 5th, she wroteI don’t know how you got my number…but I don’t care how much you guys harass me, I will still use my voice passionately and decisively right now, so that others can be heard later.” She spoke out on NBA Countdown, saying that her hope is that the spectators of the NBA “recognize that 90% of the players are African American men” and she wants fans to have the same energy when watching NBA players dribble the ball as when someone walks across the street from you. “It’s the same person,” she says. She expressed that we have to find a way to translate the support given to the athletes into “the streets of everyday life.” Taylor’s Instagram has been active, too, through resonating captions praying for justice and a #blackouttuesday post. She has also shared video clips of her public statements on air.

Mike Tirico (NBC) 

Known for not typically speaking out on social issues, Tirico, as ofJune 6th,  has not tweeted since May 26th (as of June 6). He has “liked” statements supporting the BLM movement on Twitter, but has not written his own comments. Tirico posted a black square on his Instagram in honor of #blackouttuesday, but didn’t have a caption with the square. He hosted a “Lunch Talk Live” with NBC Analyst Tony Dungy and Co-Founder of the Players Coalition Anquan Boldin, which covered social injustice. In response to Drew Brees’ comment and apology, Dungy said that “we have to listen.” Boldin wants to “help those who don’t have a voice.” Tirico also hosted a “Lunch Talk Live” with Illinois Football coach Lovie Smith, where he asked Smith how his life experiences have helped him in his role as a coach.

Chris Webber (Turner) 

Webber has been extremely active on Instagram in reference to the BLM. He has posted powerful photos calling out for justice for George Floyd, as well as influential videos that he put together longing for change in America. He also posted American Rapper LL Cool J’s video, where he passionately spoke out about the history of systemic racism in America. The video mentioned the looting and rioting as LL Cool J says “the rich took the loot so now we loot shit.” He also participated in #blackouttuesday, posting a black square on the Instagram grid. Webber’s Twitter account has posted the links to each of his Instagram posts, so it is clear that he is more active on the Instagram platform.

Jason Whitlock (formerly Fox) 

Whitlock is not shy to speak his mind and is one to provoke controversy. On May 25th, he tweeted: I cook myself. I order from doordash. I’ve had several small gatherings at my apartment…… “I just happen to believe the best protection from corona or any virus is to address your underlying conditions that impact your immune system. Masks, etc… gimmick/scam.” In a recent interview with Outkick, Whitlock called social media a “necessary evil,” but he also said that “social media is the real pandemic killing America and freedom,” in support of Drew Brees’ comment. In response to George Floyd’s death, he tweeted: “God’s design. One mouth. Two ears. Two eyes. We should all do 4 times as much listening and observing as talking. Don’t be afraid to reflect, acquire knowledge and listen to others with more wisdom. Social media compels us to speak even when we have little of substance to say.” On May 29, Whitlock “liked” a tweet by Charlie Kirk that reads, “Systemic, racially-biased police brutality is a lie not rooted in statistics or data. Tragedies are real, but don’t misrepresent the data. Facts matter.”

Michael Wilbon (ESPN)

Wilbon has voiced what he considers is the vexation of racial injustice in America. In an ESPN clip, in response to Drew Brees’ comments and apology, Wilbon expressed his anger over Brees’ lack of education and understanding. On June 4th, he tweeted Drew Brees’ granddaddies came back home, perhaps to a local parade. My uncles and dad came back home to people saying, “Get on the back of the bus.” And they all sacrificed to serve this nation! Brees still doesn’t get that.

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Elise Goldstein
Elise Goldstein

Elise Goldstein is a student in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She hails from Cherry Hill, New Jersey and is eager to learn more about sports journalism as a former student-athlete coxswain on the rowing team.

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