- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2016

This Memorial Day, ESPN Magazine columnist Howard Bryant is lamenting the presence of cops, soldiers and signs of “staged patriotism” at sporting events, saying the “authoritarian shift” is stifling the speech of black athletes.

The column, which will appear in the June 6 print edition of the biweekly sports journal, said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks created a false “hero narrative” in which “policing is seen as clean, heroic, uncomplicated.”

“Following the marketing strategy of the military, police advocacy organizations have partnered with teams from all four major leagues to host ‘Law Enforcement Appreciation’ nights, or similar events,” Mr. Bryant wrote, NewsBusters reported.

But he says the visible presence of police officers at sporting events “sends another clear message: The sentiments of the poor in Ferguson and Cleveland do not matter.”

“Nobody seems to care much about this authoritarian shift at the ballpark, yet the media and the public are quick to demand accountability from players they consider insufficiently activist,” Mr. Bryant continued. “They blame these black players for not speaking up on behalf of their communities, ignoring the smothering effect that staged patriotism and cops singing the national anthem in a time of Ferguson have on player expression.”

Mr. Bryant previously wrote a November 2015 column bemoaning the Chicago Blackhawks for wearing camouflaged jerseys on Veterans Day, which he said clashed with their Native American logo given the “systematic removal of native tribes at the hands of the U.S. Army.”

“Since 9/11, America has conflated the armed forces with first responders, creating a mishmash of anthem-singing cops and surprise homecomings in a time of Ferguson and militarized police,” he wrote.

In a 2013 column, Mr. Bryant deplored the “decidedly, often uncomfortably, nationalistic” tone at sports games, citing military flyovers and the signing of the national anthem.


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