True role models
The quest for social justice has taken sports personalities and iconic entertainers in several directions.
Some examples. More than half a century ago, Muhammed Ali declined to be inducted into the United States military to protest the US’ role in the Vietnam War and focus attention on galloping racism in American life.
He lost millions of dollars in earnings at the height of his heavyweight boxing career but he gained adoring fans almost everywhere for taking a conscientious stand after the US Supreme Court exonerated him.
Just as important, Joel Garner, Clive Lloyd and many other West Indies superstars declined to play in South Africa during the heyday of the abhorrent racist apartheid system, drawing a proverbial line in the sand for social justice while forgoing lucrative paydays.
Those examples came to mind last week when the US National Football League
and Colin Kaepernick, the outstanding black quarterback who took the San Francisco 49s to the Super Bowl several years ago, settled a civil lawsuit outside of US courts.
Kaepernick ran afoul of the 32 NFL owners who allegedly colluded to prevent him from playing for the past two years for daring to kneel during the playing of the US national anthem to protest social injustices by police officers. The lawmen were accused by civil rights advocates and Kaepernick of wrongfully shooting Blacks in the streets.
US President Donald Trump weighed in on the side of the owners, accusing the NFL players of disrespecting the flag and the anthem by taking a knee. The controversy divided the country.
Enter Rihanna, a multi- Grammy awardwinning Bajan singer who backed Kaepernick, insisting that he had acted properly by raising the legitimate issue of police wrongdoing. But she did more than that. Invited to sing during the halftime entertainment of this month’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, she gave up an opportunity for a hefty payday – some say about a $1 million – by boycotting America’s greatest sporting event.
The Super Bowl attracts US television’s largest single audience, an estimated 100 million viewers, and Rihanna, a Barbados cultural ambassador, reportedly turned down hefty offers from the NFL and CBS Television. She put principle before money and stood her ground.
It was an act of immense moral strength, which underscored Rihanna’s maturity and social conscience. Her stance is said to have convinced the NFL to settle the case and pay Kaepernick between US$60-80 million. Her stance offers a valuable lesson to those who thrive on public acclaim and celebrity status. Whether cricketers, athletes or entertainers, they can garner people’s trust and affection by standing up for what’s right.
Understandably, Kaepernick praised Rihanna for her stance.
Even if Barbadians are not big American-style football fans, they know the difference between right and wrong.