Torii Hunter

My brother-in-law, Charles Crawford, grew up in Hominy, Oklahoma, about 30 miles from Tulsa. After an outstanding high school football career, he earned a full-ride scholarship to Kansas State University. He played running back, helped turn around the Wildcats and reached the 1983 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

He is a devout Christian, served in the U.S. Army, was a trained paratrooper and is a former Hominy School Board member. His son is an optometrist and his daughter a police officer in Tacoma, Washington.

After serving his nation, Crawford would return to his native Hominy. He has worked in the insurance industry for decades. He is everything that white America thinks a black American man should be.

Crawford was the first to tell me that a campaign rally for the guy running for re-election as president was scheduled in Tulsa on Friday, June 19. Juneteenth Day. Many cities and towns across America celebrate this day in commemoration of the end of slavery. It’s in June, months after the end of the Civil War, because the date actually commemorates when free black Americas in Texas actually got the news that they were no longer slaves.

The campaign changed the date to Saturday, June 20.

Charles is praying that there is no violence and that the day will come and go. He’s a peaceful man. But like many of us, he’s enraged with what is happening in this country. He’s far from a raging liberal. But he’s had enough.

The president will ramp up the rhetoric, attack those who dare kneel during the national anthem and throw kerosene on every imaginable racial, social and political inferno. He’ll do his best Mussolini impersonation and leave hate, distrust and fear in his wake. 

But current and former athletes and respective league and team officials - black and white - are finally standing up to the bully-in-chief. Their actions are exposing and attacking racism and unfairness in America. And they are proving the president's Emperor Without Clothes stature is crumbling.

Support in surprising places

As loud as the black voices are today in challenging systemic racism and police brutality, it’s white voices that have the president quaking. Suddenly, no one seems to fear him. Who cares if he won’t watch the NFL after players knees during the national anthem? Who cares if a fan says they will drop their season tickets and no longer cheer for a team? This time, the cause is bigger than misdirected patriotism and a racially misguided president.

Bill O’Brien, coach of the Houston Texans is the first to say he will take a knee during the anthem.

Yeah, I’ll take a knee — I’m all for it,” O’Brien said in a Houston Chronicle interview. 

“The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.”

I literally had to read this statement twice to believe it.

After announcing on Instagram that he planned to knee, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield received instantaneous hate from many of his social media followers.

“If I lose fans, that’s OK,” Baker said near the end of the statement.

“Everybody so upset about my comment doesn’t understand the reason behind kneeling in the first place,” Mayfield said as he opened his statement.

“I have the utmost respect for our military, cops, and people that serve OUR country. It’s about equality and everybody being treated the same because we are all human. It’s been ignored for too long and that is my fault as well for not becoming more educated and staying silent.”

After a fan said on Twitter, “I doubt you’ll be seeing J.J. Watt take a knee this season,” Watt fired back.

“A) don’t speak for me. B) if you still think it’s about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven’t been listening.”

While Watt did not say he would protest during the anthem, he makes it clear that he supports those that will.

These and other actions by white Americans are key to truly challenging a status quo that ignores racism whenever and wherever possible.

Black MLB players video a hit

Like several of their NFL counterparts, a number of black MLB players have released a video in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and fighting systemic racism in this nation.

In just 55 seconds, players including Aaron Judge, Andrew McCutcheon, CC Sabathia and Giancarlo Stanton share lines to unleash a powerful message - one that many white MLB fans don’t want to hear.

“You have cheered for us, but we need you to cheer with us now, when we need you most.”

“Eight minutes and 46 seconds is enough time to lift a knee,” Stanton said, in reference to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The players collectively say, “Black Lives Matter.” The video concludes with them saying, “It’s our cheer for change. It’s your cheer for us. It’s these cheers that will unite us. One team, one dream. Be the change.”

Torii took on Boston

Non-trade contracts have been part of Major League Baseball for generations, thanks in large part to Curt Flood.

Torii Hunter, who hails from my mother’s hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas., is unique because he demanded that whatever team that wished to sign him as a free agent agree to not trade him to Boston.

Years ago, Hunter called out Boston for having the most racist fans in baseball. He was ignored because “no one heard” him being called the N-word and other hideous racial insults.

“When I went to Boston it was so consistent,” Hunter told WEEI radio in Boston.

In one instance, he said “four or five kids” were chanting the N-Word at him.

“When I heard ‘N-word, N-word’ just chanting my name and I looked at these grown-ups and they are clapping and laughing,” Hunter said. “I’m pointing saying, ‘'Tell them to shut up. That’s bad.’

“These kids are now probably grown,” Hunter continued.

“They are probably CEOs of companies. They are probably the head of something. And I can imagine these kids doing things to people of my skin color and mistreating them.”

Former All-Star Adam Jones, who now plays in Japan, backed Hunter’s story for years because he too was the subject of racial taunts in Boston more than any city. Retired New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia says Boston “in the only place” he was called a N-word.

Instead of shying away, the Red Sox released a statement that signals the changing times of this new era.

“Torii Hunter’s experience is real,” the statement reads. 

“If you doubt him because you’ve never heard it yourself, take it from us, it happens. Last year there were seven reported incidents at Fenway Park where fans used racial slurs. Those are just the ones we now about.”

The Red Sox admitted that black employees working on game days and nights are often racially insulted, as well.

“True change starts from within, and as we identify how we can do better, please know we are listening,” the statement reads. “We hear you and believe you.” 

We’'ll see if you mean it, Red Sox. 

The Reid Roundup

Kenny Williams, just the third African American general manager in MLB history, told Chicago White Sox TV this week that his home had a racial slur painted on it when he was named to the position in 2002. He shared some of the hate mail he received and said, “Some, we laughed about. Some, we needed security for.” Williams’ mother is an original Black Panther in Oakland and his godfather is John Carlos, whose famous black power salute at the 1968 Olympics is regarded as an iconic moment in the Civil Rights Movement ... FIFA dropped its mandate that players must stand for anthems, and the president said he won’t be watching much anymore. FIFA said it “strongly advocates for tolerance, mutual respect and common sense when such important matters are debated.” ... A group of minority players in the NHL have formed an independent Hockey Diversity Alliance, which will be co-chaired by former Calgary Flames right wing Akim Aliu and San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane. Its mission is to “eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey and promote diversity at all levels of the game.”  HDA executive committee members include Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba, Detroit defenseman Trevor Daley, Buffalo forward Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia forward Chris Stewart and recently retired forward Joel Ward ... The HDA announcement came a week after retired goalie and NHL Network lead analyst Keven Weekes said the NHL “needs to be real,” concerning racism in the sport and say, ‘hey, this is a problem.’” Weekes told ESPN, “The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor. I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net.” ... A number of athletes at the University of Texas want to silence “The Eyes of Texas,” a song saluting the state’s racist traditions. The athletes said last week they won’t help with recruiting or attend alumni events if the song continues at games.

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk. His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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