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What to do in light of RSL’s protest

Let’s reflect on what happened and what the protests mean.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened in the last 24 hours.

This morning, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen made some incredibly out-of-touch and disgraceful remarks about the protests that occurred at Rio Tinto Stadium. Last night, RSL players joined with their opponent for the night, LAFC, and other leagues around the nation to protest the treatment of black people in this country. The RSL players showed a lot of bravery choosing not to play a match that would have been their first match at home since March. The players likely anticipated some of the pushback they would receive from some fans or members of the organization but went ahead with it to “capitalize on that moment” as Nedum Onuoha put it and turn a lot of heads no matter the amount of anger or discomfort or, yes, inconvenience it would cause for many.

As expected, there was a broad array of reactions to the protest ranging from solidarity to fury. None of us can pretend to have all of the answers with regards to racism and how to root out our individual and collective biases, but a moment like this requires some humility and willingness to listen and learn rather than falling into some bad habits.

To those who say RSL players should stay out of politics: Sports has interacted with social justice movements for decades. This is not new. Would you have said the same thing when Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers to boos and jeers? Would you have said the same thing when Muhammad Ali spoke out about the mistreatment of blacks at home and abroad during the Vietnam War? People are killing unarmed black people in front of their family and friends across the country on a regular basis. True, these protests will not end racism all of a sudden, but if it was your friend or family member that was killed, would you tell those protesting the killing at sporting events to stay out of politics? How would you bring attention to the injustice if that nightmare was recurring across the country? This is bigger than politics. It is violence that dehumanizes and, all too common, leads to cold-blooded murder. It needs to stop.

To those who say that players protesting will not have an effect on racism: Consider how many people are paying attention to these issues now that do not pay much attention to the news or follow current events. Sports has as broad of a reach and appeal in our country as anything else, probably even more so than any other industry. Athletes taking a stand is garnering the attention, good or bad, to shine a light on these issues and people are finally starting to truly listen. These protests are not just political decisions because changes can happen in a lot of ways. It is not just politicians that can make policy changes. It is businesses, religious groups, communities, and individuals who can make changes that collectively will make a big difference. The protests on Aug. 26 will be remembered much longer than anything that RSL as a franchise has done in years. Maybe ever. It will go down as one of the biggest moments in both RSL history and sports history.

To those who say that it was an inconvenience to them that they bought tickets to the game and went out of their way to attend just to find out the game would not take place: You are right. It was inconvenient. It was meant to be inconvenient, but not to inconvenience you specifically. I hope you find an acceptable resolution and come to another game in the future. I hope that you have a wonderful experience next time. However, at this moment, this is much bigger than you. Inconvenience and discomfort force conversations and changes. Far too many positive changes happen only after they go beyond being pressing issues. People have to demand the changes.

To those that as a result of the player protests are awakening to the issues and want to learn more: There are a lot of resources and information out there. It’s not hard to find them. Listen. Learn. Think about things in a way you never considered before. Figure out how you can be a part of the solution.

To those who say they are not going to support RSL or its players again because of the protests: Goodbye and good riddance.

To Dell Loy Hansen: I have a feeling we are going to learn a lot more about you in the next few days. You are not suited to be the owner of this club. Please leave.