Joe Santoro: NBA should cancel and NFL may follow | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: NBA should cancel and NFL may follow

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
An empty court and bench are shown following the scheduled start time in of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. NBA players made their strongest statement yet against racial injustice Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take the floor for their playoff game against the Orlando Magic.
Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP

The NBA should cancel the rest of this insignificant season. Hardly anyone is paying attention anyway. Television ratings are down, the games are boring without fans in the stands and the players’ minds are obviously elsewhere. And their minds should be elsewhere, given the disturbing events in the country right now. Their famous faces and influential voices also need to be elsewhere right now, too. They should be in the communities affected most by the issues they care about. They should be knocking on the doors of politicians demanding action. They should be leading protests and giving a voice and a face to the issues. So forget about the games. We haven’t had normal games since last March anyway. We’re not even watching. Go change the world.

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NBA players, though, have a difficult decision to make. If they stop playing games will they slowly lose their platform on which to speak on social injustice? Will anyone listen to them if they are simply concerned citizens and not famous basketball players? Is anyone truly listening now, or simply listening for a couple seconds before clicking to the next video on their phone? NBA athletes are understandably frustrated. They want to use their influence for good and help stop injustice and not simply to sell jerseys. But it is the politicians who need to listen to them, not merely the guy wearing a Los Angeles Lakers hat sitting on his couch after working 10 hours looking for an escape from the real world.

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Are we witnessing the end of professional sports in this country as we knew them? Sports are clearly no longer an escape from the harsh realities of the world. When was the last time sports were fun or enjoyable? Six months ago? So why watch? Why invest a second of your day caring about which millionaire wins a game? You can’t even go to the games now anyway. And when you watch a game on your favorite screen all you are reminded of is the turmoil that is going on outside your front door. How are we supposed to care about who wins a silly game? With each passing day we care a little less.

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Is the NFL season in jeopardy? It is still amazing that the NFL is going ahead with its season this fall. Football games during a pandemic? Really? The citizens of this country are asked to wear masks and stand six feet apart when buying a gallon of milk while NFL players are expected to run into each other for three-plus hours a day on Sunday and each day in practice. Now that boycotting games have occurred will it become the required reaction by athletes whenever social injustice takes place? Cancelling a practice or two, like some NFL teams did this week, is one thing. But will NFL players, many of which do not have guaranteed contracts, give up game checks? The NBA players already got all of their regular season checks. They don’t have to play right now. Most NFL players don’t have that luxury.

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It is the reaction of fans, of course, that matters the most to professional sports leagues. The NFL fan base reacted strongly and angrily when a quarterback took a knee during the anthem a few years ago. What will be the reaction when games are canceled after the next police shooting of a person of color? You can take away the NBA and almost nobody cares. The NFL is an entirely different matter. The NFL has seemingly been in a fantasy world the last six months, moving ahead as if the pandemic was a media creation. That fantasy world, it seems, is about to vanish.

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The colleges and universities that are selfishly planning on playing games this fall also need to take a closer look at what they are doing. The health and safety issues should have been enough to cancel all of the games. But they weren’t. For that alone, the conferences who are playing games should be ashamed. But now that professional athletes are boycotting games because of events in this country there is yet another reason to not play this fall. Will the colleges and universities that play games this fall allow their students to boycott games? Can those athletes even kneel during the national anthem? Will their universities take away their scholarships and will their coaches kick them off the team or relegate them to the bench if they do? The social injustice concerns in our nation can only be remedied by education, not touchdowns, baskets and home runs. There was a time when education, and not making millions of dollars through athletics and rising tuition fees was the main focus of our colleges and universities. What better time is there than right now for that emphasis to return?