28 Oct, 2017

sports, protest, and peace…

sports, protest and peace…
28 Oct, 2017

@versaillesboy via Twitter screenshot


“When I was a teenager, I skipped school, so I could see cricket matches at Karachi’s National Stadium,” I told Minal and her friends while driving to school. “That’s when Pakistan was playing against India.”

We were talking about the Astros (Houston) versus Dodgers (Los Angeles) baseball series, a game that I never followed prior to this year.

Minal’s eyes widened: “You liked sports? You skipped school?”

I nodded. “And I hung posters of cricket players in my room.”

She didn’t ask who the players were, and neither did I want to elaborate.

When hearing me talk about my teenage passion for cricket, Minal has reason to be surprised. I rarely pay attention to sports. But this year, even as I track baseball scores, I am also watching the protest movement that (now unemployed) US football player Colin Kaepernick started by “taking the knee”. Even though Kaepernick is no longer on a US football team, his act of resistance was adopted by players across the country. A month ago, by the time “taking the knee” drew racist comments by #45, the movement had grown not just amidst professional players but also on college campuses; at Howard University, women cheerleaders have been “taking the knee” since last fall.

Change is initiated through protest, and sports can play a pivotal role. And though systemic racism is difficult to erase, I wonder what kind of shifts would occur in US society if every team and all players—in all sports, all genders, all levels (professional, college, high school)—chose protest?

In the meantime, going back to cricket, this week a historic peace-making series unfurled: Sri Lanka’s cricket team arrived in Lahore, the city where in 2009, the convoy of the Sri Lankan national team was attacked by 12 gunmen while heading to the stadium.