WCBE

The Week In Sports

Jul 16, 2016
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And now it is time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: Athletes have had a lot to say about the events of the last few weeks about police shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, about the attack on police in Dallas, even about Brexit. Howard Bryant of espn.com joins us now to talk about this. Thank you for being here, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Linda. How are you?

WERTHEIMER: Pretty good. Could you give us the rundown of how these people are getting involved and who's speaking out on what?

BRYANT: Yeah, it's a different scoreboard today. It seems that Andy Murray, after winning Wimbledon, gave a nod to outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron, saying he didn't really envy his job. And also, let's not forget that 20 years ago, Andy Murray was a child, he and his brother, and they were part of the - they survived the Dunblane school shooting in Scotland. And he had a lot to say in an interview in CNN - at CNN last week about gun violence in America and also in the U.K.

And, of course, Serena Williams, winning Wimbledon, was talking also about equal pay and about Dallas and about Baton Rouge and about Black Lives Matter and about everything that's been taking place over the last couple of years in the United States, as well as Dwyane Wade - basketball players Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul and LeBron James, of course, speaking about the same thing.

And so it seems as though we're in a time of global citizenry when it comes to players. We used to believe that the player was hiding behind their millions and hiding behind their mansions and the tinted glass of their Escalades. And now it's a very different time for players, very different than anything we've seen probably since the 1960s.

WERTHEIMER: Well, it is a marked difference from the past. I think of Michael Jordan saying Republicans buy sneakers, too.

BRYANT: Oh, yes, famously.

WERTHEIMER: You think that's changing?

BRYANT: Well, it has changed. And I think there are a couple of major reasons for it. Obviously, I think one is these players are different. I think it's very individual-based. I think that Michael Jordan had a different set of politics and a different set of motivations, very different from LeBron James and Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. And I think also video is a big part of this. These players are from a social media generation where they're looking at things, seeing things very, very differently than relying on traditional media and also using their platforms.

And I think that the conflict comes, especially in sports now, post-9/11, where the actual arena - there used to be a saying where there was no news on the sports page, and that's very different. When you go to sporting events now, they - all of these issues that are taking place in the country, you see them manifest on the ballfield. You see them pre-game, whether it's military flyovers and everything else, it's all happening.

And then also I think the other thing that's very interesting with the players today, especially the African-American players, is that these players are from a lot of the communities that are in conflict. So you have this battle between the players who are from some of these aggrieved communities and then you also have the ticket buyers who are from - generally predominately white - from communities that are not afflicted by the things that are taking place in, say, Baltimore or New York with Eric Garner or St. Louis.

So sports is a place right now in a very different place than it's been in years where you can have the possibility for dialogue or you can have the possibility for conflict.

WERTHEIMER: Howard Bryant of espn.com, thank you.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.