Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 10
Maya Moore is a hero on (and in) the court
Lynx star’s social justice assist exemplifies athletes as living up to being role models.
Maya Moore, who led her Minnesota Lynx team to four WNBA crowns, her University of Connecticut Huskies team to two NCAA titles, and her Team USA to two gold medals, is a champion on the court.
And now Moore’s a champion in the court, too.
At least as far as her heroic role in the case of Jonathan Irons, an unjustly convicted Missouri man who on July 1 walked out of a penitentiary a free man after serving 23 years behind bars. Irons was just 18 when he was sentenced to 50 years for burglary and assault, crimes he unwaveringly denied.
Moore met him as part of a prison ministry program before her freshman year in college. She stayed close to Irons, and close to his case, and shocked the sports world by leaving the Lynx last year in part to pursue justice for Irons.
Moore, a former WNBA MVP, made a substantial sacrifice, forgoing a chance for another championship (and her salary) at the peak of her career. And she’s indicated that she won’t stop there.
In fact, she plans to continue to work for social justice, just as she and her Lynx teammates did in 2016, when they wore black T-shirts with the phrases “Change Starts with Us. Justice and Accountability” on the front. On the back were the words “Black Lives Matter” and the names of Philando Castile and Alton B. Sterling, who had been killed in officer-involved shootings, as well as an image of the Dallas police shield, reflecting the five officers killed in that city by a sniper.
Backlash ensued. But, Moore told The New York Times, “I’d found my voice.”
Just as former quarterback Colin Kaepernick did. (He may find a team, too, now that the NFL has belatedly, but rightly, finally come to better understand the principle behind his protests against social injustice in America.)
NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace found his voice, too, and responded gracefully, and gratefully, to his fellow drivers when they rallied around him after a noose was found in his garage. (An investigation revealed that the noose had been in the stall since 2019 — long before Wallace received the garage assignment. But the incident clearly was not a “HOAX,” as President Donald Trump divisively described it on Twitter.)
Athletes finding their voice is a welcome development for society, and sport, and it shatters the stereotype of self-absorbed stars in the pro and college ranks. Sure, just like any cohort, there are problematic individuals, especially since so many are thrust into the spotlight at such a young age. But many more are what society urges them to be: role models.
And in the process of finding their voices, these athletes can inspire teammates, as well as others in society, to find theirs. Irons has set an example, recently telling The New York Times that “I hope to be an agent of positive change. I want encourage and inspire people and share my story with anyone who will listen.”
Maya Moore listened and righted a wrong. That makes her a champion on and off the court.
St. Cloud Times, July 10
We hate to say this, but it’s time for the mask law
Generally, we oppose putting any law on the books that won’t be well enforced.
Laws without teeth muddy the waters about which rules we really have to follow. That ambiguity leads to other bad things — discriminatory enforcement, general disrespect for laws and, potentially, contempt for the people who pass the laws, good and bad.
So you could say that what comes next hurts us a bit. But it has to be done.
It’s time for a statewide mask mandate.
No, we don’t want to see (or believe we will see) hefty fines or incarceration for barefaced citizens.
But it’s time to stop putting the burden of mask rules on businesses, employees and caretakers. It’s time to stop asking Minnesota residents to consult their GPS and their news alerts to find out if they’re in a Mask City or a Do What You Want City on any given day.
It’s time for Minnesota leaders to finally grab that hot potato and mandate what the CDC recommends: masks for everyone in indoor public spaces.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is asking for such a move. Thousands of members of the Minnesota Medical Association signed a letter urging mandatory mask-wearing statewide in public indoor spaces. The Minnesota Nurses Association has called for the same.
But we still have that hot potato bouncing around, mostly to city councils. And we now have part-time retail workers who have effectively become bouncers, charged with confronting rule-breakers and convincing them to comply or getting them out of the store. That’s no way to run a public health campaign.
A patchwork of rules set by municipalities — or no rules at all — is guaranteed to undermine whatever benefit masks can offer in safeguarding vulnerable Minnesotans.
Our state health officials and many political leaders including Gov. Tim Walz have been clear that they believe mask-wearing is a best practice for the time being. The rumors that wearing a mask will deprive generally healthy people of oxygen or make us ill have been debunked.
We know that requiring masks, like shoes and shirts, is not an unreasonable demand in return for the use of public spaces. And we know that masks won’t hurt anyone to wear.
But here’s the most compelling reason, to us: A statewide rule would help small business owners, relieving the burden of enforcing a mask rule on their site at the risk of alienating some of their clientele. It would also relieve them from the worry that not instituting a mask rule for their workplace puts them in the line of a lawsuit should employees contract COVID-19 on the job.
So what is the holdup? It’s time to do it.
The Legislature convenes in a special session on Monday, so they should craft legislation that gets the job done fairly — with a sunset clause — because enforcement won’t be aggressive, and you know how we feel about toothless laws. The faster we get it over with and off the books, the better.
The Free Press of Mankato, July 9
Nicknames: Racial team names must go
Why it matters: The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians have signaled coming changes to their troublesome nicknames.
Hail to the Redtails?
The sudden and widespread change in public opinion on systemic racism is not only toppling monuments and forcing a reconsideration of how we enforce our laws. It’s also creating more pressure on holdout sports teams to drop troublesome nicknames.
On the face of it, team names are a minor matter, but such casual use of racial identity and stereotypes helps embed the attitudes that enable and support systemic racism.
No nickname in America’s major sports is more troubling than that of the NFL team in the nation’s capital. The Washington Redskins’ very name is a racial slur. Coming in close behind is this race for distastefulness would be baseball’s Cleveland Indians, less for the name than for its decades-long embrace of a racial caricature as the team emblem.
The Cleveland team has officially dropped “Chief Wahoo” as its primary logo, but it continues to sell merchandise emblazoned with the cartoon figure, and the sincerity of the lengthy phaseout has been questioned. But last week the team announced that it will now consider renaming itself. A total rebrand is the most obvious way to consign the Wahoo logo to the past.
Washington owner Dan Snyder, who has long insisted that he would never change the team nickname, has been forced to retreat. FedEx, a primary corporate sponsor, has publicly called for a new name, and Nike has pulled the team’s merchandise from its stores and website. Snyder is reported to have conceded to friends that a change is inevitable.
These nicknames have been attached to the teams for generations and are thus entangled in fan allegiance and emotions. The Indians moniker has been used since 1915, when the team — then known as the Naps in honor of superstar player-manager Napoleon Lajoie — sold off the aging legend. The Redskins name was already in place when the team moved to Washington in 1938. So there has been resistance to change despite years of criticism — but that resistance is, at long last, crumbling.
If change is coming, to what? Baseball teams in Cleveland’s distant past have borne, besides Naps, the names Spiders, Blues and — perhaps more relevant to the immediate incentive for change — the Buckeyes, a powerhouse Negro League team in the late 1940s. Naps is probably too sleepy a name to revive, Blues is in use by an NHL team and Buckeyes might face opposition from the Ohio State University athletic department. Spiders offers some interesting logo possibilities; we’ve already seen a mockup of a cap using the team’s current block C logo with a web design inside.
As for the football team, while many may favor the Hogs — in homage to the legendary offensive line that powered the franchise’s Super Bowl titles — we are taken by the Redtails. That would not only fit the team’s color scheme and require minimum reworking of the team song, “Hail to the Redskins,” but would honor the Tuskogee Airmen, a legendary World War II squadron of Black fighter pilots.
In this, as in so many aspects, overdue change is coming. Fans will do well to embrace it.