- - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s a universe of difference between Isaiah Crowell’s recent action and the action of four Minnesota Lynx players, as stark as the contrast between death and life.

The Cleveland Browns halfback posted a despicable graphic that depicts the brutal killing of a police officer. The WNBA ballers wore T-shirts that read “Change starts with us. Justice & accountability” on the front, and “Black Lives Matter” on the back, along with the names of two African-American men killed by police last week and the Dallas Police Department emblem.

Despite the wide gulf between Crowell’s since-deleted Instagram post and the players’ attire, four off-duty police officers working the Lynx game at Target Center were outraged by the latter. They found the message to be so offensive, they walked off the job Saturday night.

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the union that represents Minneapolis’ rank-and-file officers, praised the officers for quitting. “I commend them for it,” he told the Star Tribune. “Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless.”

I might counter that abandoning your post over philosophical disagreements is unwarranted and reckless, especially in light of T-shirts but even in egregious examples such as a drawing of a police officer’s throat being cut.

Crowell’s graphic is indefensible and reprehensible, repugnant and irresponsible. The image is terribly disturbing, with blood gushing from the wound, and it can’t be condemned enough, OK?

That said, we enter a dangerous, slippery slope if police officers refuse to do their job based on one individual’s behavior. The president of Cleveland’s police union put that threat on the table unless Crowell goes to Dallas, donates to the slain officers’ families and issues a heartfelt apology.

“I will pull Cleveland officers, sheriffs, state troopers out of First Energy Stadium this season if he doesn’t make it right,” Stephen Loomis told TMZ Sports, adding that Crowell’s initial expression of remorse on Monday was a “store-bought apology.”

Crowell’s first statement, released by the team, read: “It was an extremely poor decision and I apologize for that mistake and for offending people. My value and beliefs do not match that image.”

He took another crack at apologizing on Wednesday in a video posted to his Facebook page, saying he wants to work toward opening dialogue between police and the community. “By posting that picture I became part of the problem,” he said. “I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. To back that up, my first game check is going to the Dallas Fallen Officers Foundation.”

The funds will help the families but won’t help solve the vexing issue and won’t stop the increasing collisions between sports and society.

Plenty of athletes have spoken out since the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five Dallas officers. And the opinions have run the gamut from blaming perpetrators to blaming victims.

Charles Barkley went on national radio and essentially defended the practice of racial profiling. Carmelo Anthony wrote a mini-manifesto calling for athletes to address political issues and demand change. Your desire to hear more from such sports figures probably depends on which view is closest to your own alignment.

Imagine if police officers operated the same way. Anti-abortion cops might refuse to provide protection to workers and visitors to a women’s clinic. Officers who oppose gay marriage might look the other way when a hate crime occurs. The same could be true for those in law enforcement who have something against interracial relationships.

Sports take place in such public arenas (literally), it’s unrealistic to think everyone will get along and play nice without the threat of uniformed, armed police officers on hand. It’s also unrealistic to expect lockstep-thinking and behavior from the athletes. They have a platform and some will use it to express their opinions, no matter how they might conflict with your or anyone else’s thoughts.

“We as a nation can decide to stand up for what is right, no matter your race, background or social status,” Lynx forward Maya Moore told reporters. “It’s time that we take a deep look at our ability to be compassionate and empathetic to those suffering from the problems that are deep within our society.

“Again, this is a human issue, and we need to speak out for change together.”

That includes good officers and good citizens, realizing that bad apples among the ranks don’t reflect on the entire population. Stereotyping black men, white police officers, pro athletes or rabid sports fans won’t solve anything.

Only the unreasonable and deranged among us would defend the graphic Crowell posted. I’m saddened that so many folks take umbrage at the shirts the Lynx players wore. Either way, we all have jobs to do, which means the police can’t start picking and choosing their assignments.

But they’re free to speak out like anyone else.


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