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Football, Freedom & Our Collective Future: The Uniting Force of Super Bowl LVII

Categories: Humankind Stories, News

Many of us watched anxiously when Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills collapsed on the field after what looked like a routine tackle. We witnessed response teams and medical professionals run to his aid in under 10 seconds. In wake of this tragedy sports fans from New York to California shared their support for Hamlin and his recovery. Fans of teams from across the country supported the NFL’s decision to end the game after Hamlin was rushed to the hospital. This felt like one of the few moments in recent history when our country stood united in concern for a Black man’s well-being. Despite team loyalty, political beliefs, or level of interest in sports, we were all rooting for Damar Hamlin’s safety and health.

Imagine if we could unite like this when Black people across America fall not from tackles, but from police brutality or gun violence. If response times to shootings and police brutality took seconds. Imagine if when Tyre Nichols or George Floyd died we unquestionably recognized the seriousness and abnormality of these events like we do when healthy Athletes collapse during a game. Unfortunately, our country has remained divided on this, desensitized to the killings of Black people and police brutality, now a regular occurrence and frequently consumed in media headlines.

While the NFL rushes to remove the disturbing graphics of medical professionals reviving Damar Hamlin on the field, footage of police brutality, hate crimes and mass shootings remain plastered on the news and social media. Though knowledge is power and witnessing tragedies can be vital to creating awareness and building consensus on what should be a collective pursuit of justice, “we advise our community members to prioritize their well-being when consuming traumatizing media. When tragic hate crimes are committed so consistently, it has lasting effects on our health, especially that of BIPOC communities” shared Diana Gonzalez, YW3CA’s Manager of Equity Initiatives.

The NFL prioritized the mental health of fellow Buffalo Bills players after Damar Hamlin’s medical emergency. Officials and coaches understood that players could not be expected to resume the game after witnessing such a tragic event, which ultimately led to the game being suspended. What will it take for society to develop that same response to the countless hate crimes and acts of violence that play out before us?

“The many levels of racialized trauma that being Black in this world creates is daunting. Much like the murder of George Floyd, the killing of Tyre Nichols’ triggered deep suppressed feelings. Racial Battle Fatigue, I’m exhausted, however as a woman of color I’m expected to return to “business as usual”. Once again, Black people are in mourning… How could you, how could they? So many questions, so much pain!” Ashley Faison, Advocacy & Volunteer Manager at YW3CA understands firsthand the difficulties of returning to ‘business as usual’ after witnessing tragic events.

For many people, it feels like there has been an expectation to return to business as usual from the very beginning. “1870 marks the year of the first known killing of a free Black man, Henry Truman, by police. In the 153 years since 1870, thousands of unarmed black people have been killed in America at the hands of a police system sworn to serve and protect. We as a people are so tired of being in mourning for the most recent person killed by police. We as a people are so tired of mourning those lost in senseless mass shootings. Guns are easier to get than a quality education. Police surveillance is easier to get than police protection. What will it take to change mourning to movement? We have to take collective action to make our communities safe!” CEO, Stacey Woodland.

So what can we learn from our response to Damar Hamlin? Response time matters, team and political loyalty doesn’t. Witnessing trauma is traumatic and expecting people to return to life as normal is not sustainable. In the wake of compounding tragedies, progress can still be made. Even in small increments. Even if we simply change our perception. Even if we glean from sports to unite.

At this year’s Super Bowl progress is being made. For the first time in Super Bowl history both starting quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are Black. Autumn Lockwood will become the first Black woman, and the fourth woman ever to coach in a Super Bowl, according to the NFL. This representation matters!

When the Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC championship game on January 29th, the Empire State Building lit up green to celebrate the win. Likewise, the next day when the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC championship game, it lit up red to celebrate the team. On Sunday millions of fans across America will join, together for viewing parties, tailgates, and other celebrations despite many of their favorite teams not making it to the big game. In fact, several sources predict that over 100 million of us will be watching Super Bowl LVII.

While our country is still divided in their response to police brutality and gun violence, we stand united in sports. Imagine if millions of us could come together to end police brutality and gun violence. Imagine a day when the Empire State Building can light up in Red, White, and Blue and everyone feels like those colors truly represent and include them. Imagine joining together to prevent senseless death, despite political alignment.

As we celebrate the upcoming Super Bowl and the history that is being made during the big game, let us recognize the impact that we can have on one another, on racial justice. We can unite and reshape our future. We can start making history today.

With our mission to eliminate racism and empower women in mind, YW continues to take steps forward, to demand justice and promote peace, freedom, and dignity for all. We will continue to do our part, to put an end to violence in our communities, and to create a world in which all people but especially women, girls, and people of color can thrive.

To learn more about YW3CA’s commitment to creating communities without violence visit yw3ca.org