The Mounting Tension Inside Sports Protests

reset america: protest pushback

1. To Kneel or Not to Kneel

On Friday, the Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac stood out for standing during the national anthem, and for not donning a Black Lives Matter shirt. He said he felt that those actions weren’t consistent with supporting Black lives. “We all make mistakes,” he said, “but I think that the gospel of Jesus Christ is that there’s grace for us.” Isaac saw sales of his jersey soar, but two days later tore his ACL — meaning he’ll miss the remainder of the NBA “bubble” season. Check out last week’s OZY profile of Isaac for more on his surprising path to becoming an emerging star in the league, albeit one with rough injury luck.

2. Pac-ing It In

Hundreds of athletes across the Pac-12 Conference have banded together to say they won’t play unless certain health and safety demands are met in light of COVID-19, but also for the right to earn money from their likenesses, longer scholarships and concrete steps to address racial injustice. Big Ten football players joined today with similar demands. The retaliation has already begun, with Washington State reportedly threatening scholarships and cutting players who signed on.

3. Protests on Ice

The National Hockey League, restarting its season in Canada, is overwhelmingly white — and more uneasy with the Black Lives Matter label than other major professional sports. In fact, when its players stood for the national anthem, it drew praise from Donald Trump Jr. But after Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba became the first NHL player to kneel, others — of all races — have started to follow suit, with the number of kneelers growing by the day.

4. Beware ’Black Supremacy’?

After playing several seasons in the NFL, Terry Crews left pro sports to get into acting — going from dead broke to the star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and host of America’s Got Talent. Now he’s blowing up the internet by warning about “Black supremacy” and expressing skepticism about the protest movement sweeping America. How will he explain his inflammatory tweets? Tune in to The Carlos Watson Show to find out.

the ozy greats list: basketball

Whom would you pick out of anyone in history to win a seven-game series? Here are our selections.

1. PG: Magic Johnson

Magic won five rings with the Lakers, retired as the all-time leader in assists, played all five positions in the 1980 NBA Finals as a rookie and lived up to his nickname when it came to creativity with the ball.

2. SG: Michael Jordan

As if The Last Dance left any doubt, he’s the GOAT, pure and simple. MJ just found a way to win, as the boundless athleticism of his early “Jumpman” years gave way to the crafty turnaround jumpers of his second three-peat. Oh, and he was one of the best defensive stoppers in the league.

3. SF: LeBron James

At age 35, he’s still taking over games with his trademark bull-rush to the hoop. The fact that one of LeBron’s career-defining moments is a blocked shot tells you all you need to know about his drive. The fact that he seems like a well-rounded human off the court is perhaps even more stunning.

4. PF: Kevin Durant

Yes, really, KD. At his Warriors peak, he was unguardable, and this starting five needs some more shooting prowess to spread the floor. There’s no better stretch four to have on the floor, and Durant still has some years left to build his legacy on the all-time charts.

5. C: Bill Russell

Eleven championship rings. Eleven. Russell was the most dominant defensive force the league has ever seen. He averaged a stunning 22.5 rebounds per game (just shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s 22.9 record, and no one else is within a mile), and while blocks weren’t an official stat, contemporaneous accounts indicate he swatted six to eight per game. This all-time five doesn’t need another scorer; let’s shut the other team down.

6. The Next Five

G: Oscar Robertson. A walking triple-double, he was Magic before Magic — but a more prolific scorer. G: Steph Curry. What, no Kobe? Nah, if we’re bringing a hot hand off the bench, let’s make him the best shooter of all timeF: Larry Bird. The legend from French Lick, Indiana, took home three MVPs and three titles, created countless matchup nightmares and helped define an era of basketball. F: Tim Duncan. Quiet, boring even, but the Big Fundamental was an unstoppable, graceful winner — lifting his San Antonio teams to five titles. C: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The league’s all-time leading scorer, with a don’t-even-bother-trying-to-stop-this skyhook, also had the best-ever NBA player movie cameo in Airplane!

7. What Did We Get Wrong?

Reply to this email or tag us on Twitter to let us know your all-time hoops picks and why they’re better.

what you had to say about our baseball greats

1. Our List

Many of you took issue with our baseball greats from last week (a refresher: Bonds, Trout, Mays, Babe, Jackie, A-Rod, Brett, Bench, Pedro, Gibson, Clemens, Walter Johnson, Rivera). Many of you wanted to be like Hall of Fame voters and boot the steroid users. Some of the disputes were quite persuasive, not that we’d ever admit fault. Here’s a sample:

2. Chuck H.

“You’re kidding, right? Babe Ruth played over 2,400 games, and only 32 at first base. Get real.” Editor’s note: Well, we wanted more outfielder flexibility and figured Babe could hold his own defensively at first, but … fair point.

3. Joe M.

“George Brett? For winning batting titles? Third base is a power position and Mike Schmidt had over 500 home runs. Also happened to win about 10 Gold Gloves.”

4. Mike B.

“Love him or hate him, ‘Charlie Hustle’ Peter Edward Rose is one of the best players that ever put on a baseball uniform: 4,256 hits, 3,562 games played, 14,053 at-bats, 10 seasons with 200 or more hits, lifetime batting average of .303, three World Series rings, three batting titles, MVP, two Gold Gloves, Rookie of the Year, 17 all-star appearances at five different positions.”

5. Danny K.

 You just can’t leave Christy Mathewson out. Put him in and take Roger Clemens out. Neither can you leave out Lou Gehrig. Put him on first base and move the Babe to the outfield where he actually played. Mike Trout isn’t in the Babe’s league … nor in Ted Williams’ — who must be put somewhere. Are you forgetting about old-timers? At shortstop, I think you have to go with Honus Wagner (second choice, if you consider only peak value, Nomar Garciaparra), and at second base, Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby did not have the historical significance of Jackie Robinson, but what a fearsome hitter he was! Robinson was a wonderful athlete (stealing home in a World Series!), but in value to his team he wasn’t all that far above Eddie Stanky, whom he did not dislodge from second base initially and of whom manager Leo Durocher said, ‘Can’t hit, can’t run, can’t throw, but still the best second baseman in the National League.’”

6. Next Up

In our next edition, we’ll tackle the best (American) football players of all time as we assemble our gridiron greats. Who has to be on the list … or off it?

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the herky-jerky restart

1. College Football Is a Mess

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he’s instituting a statewide mask mandate because he wants to watch college football this fall (hey, man, whatever it takes), but that’s not looking like a great prospect. Connecticut today became the first bowl subdivision school to cancel its season. The leagues have rolled out plans for scaled-back, delayed seasons with less travel, as many schools are still planning to have at least some fans in the stands. But as students trickle back and campuses turn into coronavirus hot zones, those plans will be tested in the extreme. The $4 billion question : If the NCAA cancels fall sports championships, will the (non-NCAA) College Football Playoff follow suit?

2. Follow the Bouncing Ball

The Women’s Tennis Association is restarting this week in Palermo, Italy, with a few hiccups when it comes to following coronavirus restrictions. (Pro tip: Don’t chuck your sweatband into the stands.) But the real test will come in New York City later this month, when the U.S. Open is supposed to proceed … though without Rafael Nadal and women’s No. 1 Ash Barty (pictured), as players fret about what kind of “bubble” will be erected for them around Flushing, Queens. (Roger Federer is out too, but with a knee injury.)

3. Life on the Inside

Why’s everyone clamoring for a bubble? Because they work. While Major League Baseball has seen teamwide outbreaks and a slew of missed games, the NBA has been pulling off some fantastic — and mostly virus-free — basketball in its Orlando bubble. The National Women’s Soccer League wrapped up its bubble season without problems, and Major League Soccer is chugging along as well. But for how long? MLS is aiming to go back to home stadiums before long, while the head of the NBA players’ union floated the prospect of starting next season in the bubble in December. But how will a long-term stay in what amounts to a luxury jail affect players’ mental health?

Need a little beat to get through the week? OZY Presents: Your Hump Day Playlist featuring the game-changing artists you love and rising stars you’ll soon love. Check out this week’s playlist on OZY’s Spotify.

one for the road

Extreme Estonian Swinging

Kiiking (pronounced KEE-king) is Estonia’s beloved homegrown sport. Participants are securely strapped to a huge apparatus while standing up. Practice usually takes place outside because there are few buildings available with high-enough ceilings. And, you know: COVID. Once strapped in, kiikers swing back and forth in a movement familiar to most of us from our childhood playground exertions. Most of us, though, just dreamed of swinging so hard we went all the way over the top. Kiikers actually do it.