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The Saints aren’t sticking to sports, and neither should you.

Several within the New Orleans Saints organization have spoken out against racism, injustice, and discrimination.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Some voices like those of Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, and Michael Thomas have been vocal since before Ahmaud Arbery’s life was taken while jogging by vigilantes on February 23rd, before Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home by police on March 13th, and before George Floyd was choked to death as an officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes on March 25th.

It may be daunting to read recounts of these atrocities, but it is necessary. Necessary to remember how these unarmed lives were taken, those before them, and those since. As this is yet another pandemic across the United States, one centuries old. More players, coaches, and now even owners across the NFL have begun to speak up. Standing in solidarity with the wide spectrum of people that are affected constantly by police brutality and starting initiatives to help make an impact, help make a difference.

Resources on how to effectively support and contribute.

The fact of the matter is that while we in the black community catch the most airtime when it comes to police violence and brutality because of the disproportionate amount of cases and the 400+ years of historical context that gets us to this point; this is a matter that affects all people. Not just directly, but indirectly as well.

That’s why what is happening right now is so important. The “stick to sports” rhetoric may still catch plays on old stations, but is wildly ineffective and played out otherwise. On Monday night, Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement of solidarity in general terms that could have stood to be more direct, but nevertheless evoked action. Such evocation will require follow through in order to be meaningful, but she’s aligned herself with the the right people for the job.

Soon to be formed is the “Social Justice Leadership Coalition” of trusted New Orleans professional athletes that have shown a charge in favor of social justice for some time in Saints linebacker Demario Davis as well as Pelicans players Lonzo Ball, and J.J. Redick.

I stand with [Demario Davis, Lonzo Ball, and J.J. Redick] and I will rely on their leadership and direction to make sure we are making the most powerful impact we can. And I am proud to announce that these three players will join me in a newly created Social Justice Leadership Coalition, within our organization. I welcome any of our other players to join as well. Our goal will be to advocate for issues of change when and where we are able to in black and brown communities. Hopefully our work will be a model for others. They will have my full support.

Head coach Sean Payton took to Twitter to share his #BlackoutTuesday post but shortly after futher made his stance clear with a resounding post referencing both George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

And while some may hate when their sports teams “get political” it is worth considering that this is far greater than the political spectrum. Even though Coach Payton’s “22 weeks” mention is indeed in reference to November’s election, it’s important not to deflect major issues because of one single detail if disagreed upon. This is a social issue that, again, affects everyone.

In the lead photo of this very article is a picture from 2018 of the team praying along with some Falcons personnel after a road win for the Saints. This is a team long-intertwined with faith as displayed on and off the field. Take Demario Davis for example who celebrates each big play with a reference to his faith and puts it on full display, proudly, off the field with the incredible work he’s done in the community. And he is far from alone.

Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore, Thomas Morstead, Wil Lutz, Marcus Williams, and even a brief participation from the often mum Drew Brees on Instagram (whose wife, Brittney clarified the brevity of his acknowledgement, promising action to follow), all a part of this address in varying degrees. As are Saints, present and past.

The Saints, the Pelicans, and just about any other sports team out there are calling attention to a deeply entrenched and engrained issue that affects all and that disproportionately affects minority communities. You can stand against both. This is the time to remain multi-faceted in response. Supporting the end police violence against a single person, can support the end of that violence against all. Supporting the ongoing battle against racism can save lives.

I urge you, as a reader, fan, audience member, as a human being to not “stick to sports.” In instances like this, there is no choice. There should be no choice between fighting against prejudice, brutality, racism, and violence vs. not.

Five year ago, while I was still in graduate school I was writing a theater piece in collaboration with colleagues at my university. The piece was far-reaching and based on interviews conducted on the black experience in America which we gathered across the country. During that time I was repeatedly told to “be patient and things will change” or to “be appreciative of what progress has already been made.” Now, we find ourselves back in the same vicious cycle we were in then and for decades past. I’m grateful I didn’t fold under that pressure and under that advisement and leaned instead on the support and representation of other parties involved. I didn’t bend then and none of us should now.

And I know. Some will find and poke holes in my piece here, and that is fine. In fact, it’s a good thing. Be critical in your responses to thought. Challenge yourself as much as you’ll challenge others.

Bringing on widespread change is a collaborative effort. Sometimes, seeing important figures helps drive that collaboration.

That’s what we’ve seen in New Orleans which has had peaceful and collaborative displays of protest thus far. Lifting afflicted voices, supporting communities and individuals affected by militarized policing and abuse, and supporting the fight against racism can all be steps taken against hate. We must take those steps together, however small they may feel regardless of our jobs, of our focus, of our commitment to sterile entertainment.

I am grateful, as a black man who is subjugated to hatred and racism, to see so many people within the Saints organization and amongst the Saints fanbase choose to speak up, to be allowed to speak here, and to witness the fight in favor of change in real time alongside you. This is why we do not stick to sports.