This Restorative Justice Life

109. Do Mainstream Sports Uphold Restorative Values? w/ Shaun Anderson

January 26, 2023 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
109. Do Mainstream Sports Uphold Restorative Values? w/ Shaun Anderson
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Shaun M. Anderson is an award-winning Associate Professor of Organizational Communication and Advisor for the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainability at Loyola Marymount University. He is an internationally recognized scholar that examines how sport has influenced business, politics, and society. He is also the founder of CSR Global Consulting, LLC, which assists organizations in developing and implementing their social responsibility initiatives.

Support Shaun:

Check out our LIVE Events

Support the show

Send us feedback at

Join our Amplify RJ Community platform to connect with others doing this work!

Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE

Rep Amplify RJ Merch

Connect with us on:
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Threads, YouTube, and TikTok!

SUPPORT by sharing this podcast, leaving a rating or review, or make a tax-deductible DONATION to help us sustain and grow this movement

David: Sean, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you? 

Shaun: Ooh, who am I? That is a great question. Hmm. I think I'm a person that I'm an authentic person. I, I try to be as open and honest as I can. 

David: Who are you? 

Shaun: The, the, I'm also an avid gardener believe it or not, I have a, a few, few trees in my yard that I really take the light in when, when the world gets pretty bad.

I, I, I find out peace there who are, 

David: yeah, 

Shaun: I am a southern kid at hearts. I'm living in LA right now, but born and raised in the south. I think I bring some of those qualities wherever I go. And you know, that that's, that's the way I live. 

David: Who are you?

Shaun: I am an avid sports fan who loves to see where sports is going as far as how it is impacting society on a larger scale.

I am a researcher, a scholar professor husband hopefully having children One day I can be a father. That's my, that's my path. 

David: Absolutely. Who are you? 

Shaun: I am the youngest of three. So I have two older sisters who, who are I would say we are about 16 and 14 years older than me, respectively.

Who. Still think that they're my mother, , always trying to tell me what to do. But I love them period. 

David: Mm-hmm. who are you? 

Shaun: Hmm. What else can I say? I'm a world traveler. I, this past summer 2022, I went to Paris for a research conference and I went to Turkey for vacation. I learned a lot. Enjoyed the food.

Can't wait to go to other places this summer. 

David: And finally for now, who are you? 

Shaun: I am a person that takes a step back from society, from time to time to observe to reflect to. Try to make the best decisions as possible in helping them make society better. And I enjoy that. I'm not a person that is always looking for the line of light, but when I'm needed to be in that light, I can handle 

David: it.

Mm-hmm. . Well, thank you for stepping a little bit into the limelight today. This is gonna be a little bit of a different episode of this restorative justice life because as you listeners know that we are typically talking with somebody who is doing work around restorative justice explicitly in this new year of 2023.

We're starting to expand some of those conversations. Talking to people who have helped me think about how to live my life in a restorative way. And while Sean is not a quote unquote restorative justice practitioner by trade or by training, or by profession he is somebody as we said, researcher professor and like myself, avid sports fan, who thinks really critically about the way that sports has an impact on society.

And you know, I think a week or two from the date that this podcast is airing, he's got a book coming out called The Black Athlete Revolt, the Sport Justice Movement in The Age of Black Lives Matter. So we're gonna talk a lot about the history of athlete activism over the course of our conversation.

But before we do that, Sean it's always good to check in to the full system that you want to answer the question as we enter this conversation. How are you?

Shaun: Oh, I'm great. You know healthy whole enjoying life and anticipating the release of this book. 

David: Yeah. I mean, as somebody who has thought a lot of thoughts and written some things and you know, put things out in the world, both on social media and on platforms like this I know that none of that compares to the beast that it is writing a book and now putting it out on the, you know, a couple weeks away from release date.

How are you feeling? ? 

Shaun: Yeah. You know, it's, it's interesting, like a lot of people think that, you know, so for any type of book like this, it's, it's probably a year maybe 15 months of research and writing. Mm-hmm. , and then you submit it to your publisher, they come back to you and we have a couple more months of edit.

And then once it's submitted and it's, they approve it, you know, the work is not done. You have to promote, you have to you know, stretch yourself in many ways. I, I, I, I use social media, but not a lot. But I've been using it a lot since my publicist has been telling me to use it over the past few months.

And, you know, it's, it's, it's a lot of work. And it's a lot of time and effort, but you know, again, we're at this point a few weeks away from Juan State and, you know, I, I look back on it and, and I enjoy every second of. . 

David: Yeah. Well, again, and grateful for your publicist for CR creating this connection to help us you know, have this conversation.

So, you know, if you're listening right now on a release date, you can pre-order and if you're listening in the future the book is The Black Athlete Rule. Just the Sport Justice Movement and the Age of Black Lives Matter. But, you know, both you and I are lifelong sports fans. I think, I think some of the earliest sports memories that I have being a child of the nineties is, you know, Sunday mornings after I watch you know, you know, whether it's Magic School, bus Arthur, like switching over to like the NBA on nbc, like the Nick's Miami Heat Games going on there.

And of course you know, the Jordan Comebacks, you know, I was in the perfect age demographic for Space Jam, , and then like, you know, that second piece, but you know, Athlete activism wasn't something that was like really on my mind. Of course, like you read, you know, the biography of Jesse Owens or of you know Jackie Robinson.

And then, you know, when Muhammad Ali lights the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, I'm like, as a five, six year old dad, who's that? . And he's like, oh, well this is who this person is and that's why he's important. And like, all I took away from that is like, he threw his gold medal away. Why ? Right. So like, I don't have like that kind of consciousness.

So I'm curious for you both like your earliest sports memory, but also like how you connected sports and athlete activism when that happened. 

Shaun: You know, you spoke of Muhammad Ali. I, I, I wanna say I met him, but it kind of technically I saw him in person, put it that way. Mm-hmm. I was a little kid in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Very small. A city, predominantly black city. And he came to our univers, our home town University's parade, homecoming parade. And he was riding in the back of this convertible and he was just reaching his hands out to everyone. And I was able to like, you know, slap his hand and all that stuff like that.

And then kind of like you, you know, I was asking my grandparents and my sister, I was like, you know, I, I, I know him as a, as a small kid, but what is his impact? And then, so it, it took my grandfather who only had an eighth grade education, but I consider one of the smartest people in the world taught me about finances, taught me about life.

Gave you the explanation of, of who he knew Muhammad Ali to be and as well as the others that you've mentioned that not only was he one of the greats in his sports, , but he was quite critical of the US not only when it came to racism, discrimination, and all those things, but also tying in sports and religion, you know, as he of course joined the nation of Islam.

And that brought about larger conversations as he team with Malcolm X. And so it was those conversations with my grandfather who also was an added baseball fan and introduced me to the St. Louis Cardinals when I was a little kid, when we saw Ozzie Smith, the wizard taking the field, doing the back flips Willie McGee and the others when we had a lot of black players playing baseball, I should say that.

And you know, that sparked my thought process early about sports. And I went on to play sports, thought I was gonna go pro. In high school had to be injury, you know, the inevitable knee injury. And you know, that kind of took that dream away, if you will. But I think now that since I still had that love of sport and combined it with research you know, I, I think I'm on a, a great path with you know, the work that I'm doing today.

David: Yeah. You know, you talk about having this semi awareness of who Muhammad Ali was as a young person. I think you're a little bit older than me, and so like you knew, you know, some things, but like as you. as we grew up, like in the nineties, early two thousands, the athletes that we saw weren't really people who were taking stands.

Right? Yeah. You know, Michael Jordan is famous for the line, you know, Republicans by sneakers too. Valuing, assimilating into white culture, having the broadest appeal possible, right? Getting McDonald's Coke Nike as like, you know, make me as famous as possible. And, you know, that's had positive impact in some ways, shape or form, building generational wealth for at least one black family.

Mm-hmm. , right? We have a black owner in the nba, arguably one of the worst run NBA teams right now, but we don't have to go down that road right now. But like, you know, all that to say is like the athletes that we saw growing up weren't necessarily the ones. Taking these kinds of stands. Of course you have people like you know, Mamu, Abdul Rauf Craig Hodges, who were like contemporaries of Michael Jordan, who were kicked out of the league or like blackballed from the league because of you know, the stands that they took, whether they were anti imperial for us US intervention overseas or protesting racism and police violence.

Like those things weren't as publicized and taken as seriously. As you grew up, you know, you continued to, you know, be a fan of sports in general but you also like continued to grow up like as a conscious person. Where did you see the intersection of sports and athlete activism really take root?

And in some ways this is just something like, what inspired you to like, write this book or write the things that you've been writing that like preceded this book? 

Shaun: Yeah, so, you know, it's, it's, the, the big thing about that is We've been here for many years, decades even that politics should not be in sports.

Okay. But it's, it's been there, it's been bred in the history. You know, to take it even further back, we're talking about 18 75, 10 years after the Civil War, the Kentucky Derby was established and the jockeys who rode those horses were former slaves. Mm-hmm. , right? And you're talking about these athletes at the time who rode these horses were earning what is the equivalent of the millionaire athletes today.

The issue though, is when 1896 came about, and we had the Pliny versus Ferguson which of course, among other things, the most glaring aspect of that case was the simply the equal clause, which brought in all of the, the, the Jim Crow era. Those athletes were essentially kicked out of those sports and became obsolete.

And some of them became so downtrodden and distraught with that particular verdict for them in the sports. They, you know, some of them ended up committing suicide cause there was so much, you know, you're talking about athletes who were supporting their families and building up communities over a hundred years ago to now.

People probably didn't even know that there were a lot of black jockeys the other day. And so you know, taking it to a more recent account, once, once we got into the eighties, early nineties, that became the commodification of athletes. Meaning that, TV rights, big contracts endorsements became larger than ever before.

And so there was this common law concept that if I'm going to pay you all this money, if I'm a team owner, then we just need to do what we say. Be quiet. You'll earn your money. And so, you know, without the fear of being ostracized, they did, they did just that. And so for me what got me then into writing this book is the fact that we know that there was a dorm scene.

You know, we, we saw the Michael Jordan famous quote. We also saw the Charles Barkley famous I am not a role model, you know, to which he was trying to clarify later that he was saying that, you know, while I do admire people admiring me, you know, teachers and doctors and lawyers should be admired too.

And hey, we get that. But you know, Charles Barkley has a flare . Mm-hmm. for the dramatic. And so but what got me then to the parts of this school is like never before relative to athletes who are in the line, like who are getting paid millions of dollars in endorsements. Several of them now are coming out against social justice issues.

They are using social media, which is a, of course a, a powerful platform to get their messages out there. And they are teaming up with various grassroots organization, social justice organizations to to, to push that message forward. And when Colin Kaepernick received all that vitriol for his knee, a lot of people didn't reco recognize that he had a website.

The Know Your Rights website that showcased all the things that he did with his funds while he was being ostracized. Mm-hmm. . And so cause of that, I wanted to pinpoint where we have seen this revitalization recognize the things that athletes have done that are not really covered in the media. And then, you know, also talk about or they can improve.

Cause it hasn't been a perfect movement. No, no. This has been guided by and as we're now approaching the 10 year anniversary of when the hashtag Black Lives Matter first appear. And so this is where we are with this book. 

David: Yeah. You know, you brought up Charles Barky. I am not a role model and I like, you know, I was too young to see that commercial.

Like as it happened, I've seen the impact of. Or the, the criticism of it in years since, and, you know, for most of my life, Charles Barkley has been a sports commentator. not an athlete. I think like even now, at this point for most of his life. And no, Charles Barkley is not someone who I would want to model my politics after, right?

You, you have these and we're talking about black athletes, specifically. These black athletes who accumulate a lot of wealth for their skills. They're propped up as special and role models, even though both behind the scenes, many of them aren't people we should aspire to be. We don't want any of our children do aspire to be.

And, you know, we can talk about all the lack of support and structural reasons why they may choose some of those paths that include drug abuse, domestic violence mismanagement of funds, supporting causes that we may, or you and I may or may not deem uplifting to communities as a whole, the black communities specifically, but why are we expecting this of them?

Right? Oftentimes these are, these are young people who have been like singularly focused on hitting a ball. Well, not so much today, right? Hitting a ball very far running fast to avoid getting tackled or like tackling somebody who's carrying a ball or like putting an orange about orange ball, excuse me, in a little round hoop.

And so, like, you know, while we appreciate like the relocation of funds and like the platforms that they're giving to certain issues, right? They're not necessarily people who we should look to for our, our collective liberation for advice, right? You know, people talk about, oh, I, I think there's often a double standard of people in the movement who are critiquing people within our community, right?

Like, oh, Colin should have done this. Or for those who are like very inside I know, you know, the players coalition that came up as the I guess this isn't a perfect framing, but like the Malcolm to Callen, to Colin Martin like, Hey, we're gonna work with the NFL to, you know, reallocate funds make things more just an equal in, in society.

You know, so Malcolm Jenkins and others who took that approach, like it's easy to critique that, but you know, they're also working from like, this is the best that we know how to do given the situations that we're in. And so, like, while we can't look to these people as saviors, right, we can appreciate what they do with the platforms that they have while asking them to do more.

And I know that's echoing so much of what you've said. You know, what are some of the things that you had. Been energized by like, hopefully. And like some of the things that you've been like discouraged by, in recent movements for black liberation by , you know, the black athletes of today. 

Shaun: You know here's the thing, what I do appreciate, and even though I know that it's going to take a while, what I do appreciate is the fact that once these athletes let's give it a, a, a frame of between 2014 and 2020.

Mm-hmm. You know, we just saw this galvanization polarized ethnic activism platform. And what I believe came from that was the fact that now these organizations, these sports leagues, those that are tied with these sport organizations, the sport apparel companies, Have to pay attention and be aware themselves and put together their own sort of strategies in the movement.

So, you know, you can look at the Nike commercial that Colin Kaepernick did and people can say, oh, there's just hopping on, and, and rightfully so, you can say that cause , you know, anything for a check, right? Mm-hmm. . And but also though, it, it brings up again the, the larger conversation of pushing these organizations now into what has been called brand activism.

Mm-hmm. , you know, pushing forward that agenda. Now here's my thing, and, and to get to the point that you were talking about relative to some concerns, some, some, some issues. I think the civil rights movement, you know, if it was great. . It brought about, you know, the Voting Rights Act, civil Rights Act, all of these things even helped with immigration later.

You know, a lot of people don't want give that attention to it. And so, of course we had Muhammad Ali, Lee, Althea Gibson Jim Brown, bill Russell, Kremer Billard, and that is the standard, right? Mm-hmm. For ING activism. Even though it occurred, oh, or I should say sport and politics happened before that, that's the standard.

And so I think when they then started describing the Black Lives Matter movement as the second civil rights movement, and subsequently athletes started to hashtag Black Lives Matter, then people began to, at least those who wanted better from athletes began to say, . Oh, well if you're commenting on this, then I need you to be abreast of every issue.

Yeah. I need you to donate to every cause. I need you to talk about all of this. And the issue is, these sport teams, these athletes, they are in a reactionary business. There's no standard platform. There's no, there's no no way that they have people who can talk to them about their entire issues. So they just run off.

They'll see something to say something, and then they have to retract it. Cause , they not always have been the correct information. And so those are the things that I think that need to be cleaned up as we move forward in. 

David: from the athlete's perspective or from like our expectations of athletes, right?

Because I think about LeBron specifically and things that he's had to navigate. I remember the story a while ago and you know, I'm gonna mention DAR four and people are, can date that. I think it's like 2004, 2005. Like one of his teammates and I'll name check Ira Renewable, like, hey, like, hey, I got educated about this issue.

You've got a really big platform. I'd love for you to say something. And like, LeBron never did , right? Yeah. Similarly, you know, when man there was a young man whose name is escaping me in the moment was shot in, oh, Tamir Rice was shot in Ohio, right? And they were activists, like petitioning named LeBron, like, Hey, you should sit out of, you know, this game in order to, you know, put more pressure.

You know, LeBron never made a statement on that, didn't do anything right. When. The LeBron is in China, . And you know, Gerald Mory puts out the tweet about, you know, standing with Taiwan and LeBron comes out with a non statement statement to protect business interests that he has in China. Right?

Like, people can be critical of that. And, you know, I think, and I was seeing this morning something that Angela Davis said about, you know, black people in the US it's our responsibility to be in solidarity with, you know, indigenous people here and Right. The, the audience that she was speaking to, like didn't really receive that well, , right?

And so like, how are we expecting somebody who does not have like the political orientation that Angela Davis has, or like the political orientation of like, you know, our liberation is tied up with each other and we need to be making decisions that aren't just prioritizing, you know, our bottom line , because like LeBron is a company into of himself, right?

Yes. Like, how can I like. Be not critical, but like still say these platitudes of like, you know, I could have been Trayvon Martin right. When he, they do the, the hoodie picture. Right. Or like, you know, putting pressure on the multi-billion dollar NBA to like, here allocate a couple hundred million over the next 10 years to support like boys and girls clubs, which like is fine, but is not liberatory like, like you, you're talking about this gap and is the gap on like the athlete side or is it on us as fans and consumers of this who are expecting more of them

Shaun: No so actually it's the athletes and the owners of, and, and, well I should say the organizations themselves. Mm-hmm. that I believe have more responsibility here. You know, as fans, we are consumers, right. And. You know, we, we've heard the thing that you know, I just want to go watch a, a sports game mm-hmm.

and not involve myself in politics. But my thing is, okay, if you n nfl, if you n NBA or, or nascar, nhl, you know, are dedicating resources to say diversity and inclusion equity, or to police brutality or racial injustice, then do it 100%. You know, like you say, don't just say that. Okay. I, I I stand in solidarity and you put the Black Lives Matter logo in your end zone.

Mm-hmm. . And then when a player I don't know if you saw DeMar Hamlin for the Buffalo Bills goes into cardiac arrest. Mm-hmm. on the field after a tackle. that you say, okay, we need to figure out how to get him off the field and play this game. But this man needed cpr. So you know, of course you couldn't play that game.

And so it's the responsibility of athletes to understand the facts, to not pick and choose. Because again, yes, you are a brand, we understand that. But if you're not, if you're gonna pick and choose, then just don't say anything at all if that's the case. Or go hard for what it is that you believe in, what you see as an injustice in society.

And then on the flip end, I would say that it's kind of like that, that cliche where think about a pastor and the pastor sins. And then the congregation is like, oh, well what happened to you? When people don't realize the pastor is not God. Mm-hmm. the pastor is a person like you're me. And so it's more of a responsibility from the athletes to be knowledgeable and for the teams to hire people who understand the issues to educate these athletes so that they don't go out here and, and say things that really don't make sense.

David: You know, I am someone who, basketball is primarily the sport that I follow. So I can speak in like more specific terms of, you know, the nba in general. You know, when you become a billionaire and or owner of a team, you do not have values towards liberation, equity, and justice, right? In order to get to the position that you're in you've had to screw a lot of people over.

You've had to take first and then you give back. And I'll credit Xavier Rainey one of my friends and person who I deeply admire doing this work. You know, when, when he talks about, when he talks to organizations about, you know, their corporate social responsibility initiatives, it's that idea of, you know, how can you not take first, how can you not be extractive of labor?

Right? It is not in the interest of, you know, the Steve Ballmers, mark Cubans name, the billionaire owner j Jerry Jones is to like create an equitable workplace, right? You know, horizontal their organizations, right? Being in partnership, you know, with their. Employees, not just players, but you know, other employees, right?

Because they're trying to, or power accumulate more wealth. And so like, it is not in their interest, right? To help educate their employees about, you know, liberatory more equitable ways of doing business, more inclusive ways of doing business. It is in their interest to, you know, put out the statements, post the black square, put out the hashtag that, you know, give the appearance that we're doing something.

But at the end of the day, like these are entities that are almost solely interested in, you know, growing their revenue, right? Yeah. We can talk about, you know, diversity initiatives as efforts to like, you know, bring in more consumers, essentially, right? Like how can we like, be acceptable enough to the broadest audience, right?

And now that you know, , there is more of a consciousness in a white dominant, still still white dominant consumer base that like, oh, racism is bad. Or like, sexism is bad , right. You, you need to move a different way. But is that like what we're asking of them? Because like, we're not asking we're, we're not, we don't have the same world values and like, arguably, like, I don't know that we can even be looking to them or that, right.

There were lots of people, myself included, who stopped really consuming. The NFL as a product a couple years back due to concussions and the violence. But definitely with Colin Kaepernick. And, you know, I saw a net positive to my life by not, you know, putting so much energy into a Sunday to like consume a thing.

And so like, I haven't really kept up. I watched the Super Bowl and I'm generally aware of things that happened when like somebody has a heart attack on the field, . But like basketball is not something that I'm gonna divest from , right? And like I can feel guilty about that by continuing to contribute my dollars both through and NBA league pass.

You know, the amount of my cable bill I let, to be honest, in my parents' cable that I still like watch that that goes to ESPN and therefore ESPN and t and t and therefore you know, the league and trickles down to the teams and the players. And, you know, when I actually do go to games, but like, do I, do I feel guilty about that?

No. But like, it's because I don't expect these places to be these like bastions of liberatory, , liberatory space and like America is racist, right? America is built on the foundation of racism and oppression and, you know, capitalism where they're, we're trying to extract like people who have, are trying to extract value from people who don't.

And that's just the game that we're playing. If we're not gonna like, completely divest, what is a sports fan to do? Like how do you as a sports fan continue to consume with the consciousness that you have? Yeah, no, that's, that's, 

Shaun: that's, that's an interesting, interesting question. And I, I, I have to throw another analogy in here relative to that, you know getting to your point of.

should we have that expectation knowing what we know about this particular system. You know, I, I liken that to the, the overall question that cause you know, of course black people are not of monolith. We're different in our thoughts and, and deeds. And it takes me to that, that Oscar so white, you know, mm-hmm.

sort of small movement that went on where some black people were saying yeah, you know, they need to be more diverse to Golden and Gold, all these awards. Whereas other people are saying no, I, why do you concern yourself with this? You know, why do you, 

David: why do you need that validation, 

Shaun: right? Why do you need that validation?

And I think that particular type of argument then goes into this situation. So let's, let's com look at this comparatively the nba. , it's arguably the most global US based sports league. And the reason why I'm not saying MLS is because it's just now growing here, you know? Yeah. 

David: And like the Premier League is where people go to like consume soccer.

Shaun: Exactly. Sorry, football . No, no, no, no, no. You're fine. Yeah. And so, you know, as you've mentioned the NBA has become, of course more European based players are now coming into league and become superstars MVPs. Mm-hmm. , whereas the NFL was trying to do that. And so I remember going to London a few years back when I was I got to team up with some colleagues there about understanding how the NFL was trying to infiltrate the uk.

just randomly asking people, what are your thoughts about this? And overwhelmingly so, they were saying we don't want American imperialism, , you know? And so 

David: sports are soft power, 

Shaun: right? And va, cause again, China is a big fan of the nba, you know, and like you say, those business dealings that are happening.

And we are seeing less concussion type injuries and stuff in the nba, whereas the NFL has had a slew of controversial issues. One begs the question of, you know, how can we love one sport and hate the next? Right? But here's the thing, the NFL. . The problem with the nfl, and I'm not sure about the nba, but least this is what I know from the research is that for anyone who is on the left of the right, the NFL has largely, at least its on, have do donated largely to the right mm-hmm.

In many years. And, and so the players, particularly those in the players coalition kind of, you know, pushed the NFL for this whole inspired change initiative. Were saying that, okay, if you're gonna inspire change, then you need to stop donating to people who are against our causes. Okay. Yeah. But we see that the NFL still does that mm-hmm.

while also trying to expand. And so

I think both the NBA and the NFL are, are, like the government said back in the Occupy lawsuit days are. Too big to fail, despite the fact that we see so many injustices. I I I think now it's having to continue to challenge their system is the best path forward. The players are the players. As much as LeBron has made over his career the, the, the Cleveland Cavalier owner who lambasted him from leaving to go to Miami in the first place is still going to be that owner long after LeBron retires.

So it's the challenge of the systems of the sports leagues that if we're talking about wanting them to be better, if, if we so choose that some of us don't, some of us don't care, then that's the way to go. , 

David: right? Well, I mean, so the owner of the Cleveland Cav Cavaliers is Dan Gilbert, who is, whose wealth is generated from what is now Rocket Mortgage, but like Quicken loans, like loans and all that.

Yeah, yeah. Like predatory, like, like Right. And so like that person doesn't have our values. Right. And so are we then trying to create a sports leagues that are more equity based, are more justice friendly, values aligned. Top athletes aren't gonna wanna play there because the money is not there,

Right. Right. You know, and. , you know, in I think 2011, the NBA had a lockout. They have a collective bargaining agreement that expired and they could not come back to terms. And so the season part, part of the season was suspended. And in that time there were like tangential conversations about like, oh, well what if we started our own league?

Right? How do we know that the players are not just gonna replicate ? You know, the systems and instructions that they know, like, you know, there is a critique of black capitalism that we're not gonna go like very deep into right now. Like but black capitalism is, black Capitalism has been talked about a couple different ways.

One, it's just putting black faces. The systems instructors that have continued to oppress people the other way that black capitalism has been talked about. And you know, when people like talk about like, oh, Tulsa, and like that was a bastion of like black, small business owners, like keeping money inside the community and like supporting each other.

Right. How is that a model for a sports league, right? A global or at least national sports league. Like you can look to the Negro Leagues back, back in the day. But how does that scale to right now, right. The American League and National League then at the time, like extracted the best and brightest and like force them to assimilate into the big bad, you know, white league where, you know, yes, they could get paid more, but like the, that's why there aren't as many baseball players now, right?

Because there weren't community avenues into baseball for young black, young, black athletes. And so, you know, at the end of this podcast, you and I are not gonna have like the plan for like a liberatory model of like athletes in sports , but you know what, like what have you thought of as a way forward for, you know, what, at the end of the day, in many ways as a labor issue, right?

With folks who may not have the political education necessary to create this platform for them to get paid for using their talents and gifts. And then like then defaulting to like the place where their values aren't aligned, but at least they get paid. 

Shaun: You know, it, it takes me into several thoughts about things.

So I'm going to go to initially what you were talking about with the Negro Leagues, for example, right? Mm-hmm. , you know the group Foster created that. Cause of course we knew that baseball had this coming off. Practice particularly when its first commissioner can assault Mountain Landis, that we're gonna keep black people out of the game.

You know, it wasn't a rule, but that, and so you know, branch Ricky, you know, a lot of people, we saw the movie 42 and all that stuff like that, where it was kind of Herald and Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the day to bring in Jackie Robinson. You know, he wasn't doing that to end segregation.

He was doing that to win over the Negro League fans, you know? Mm-hmm. that and, and many of the white fans who were actually attending the Negro League games, cause those were not only sporting events, it was entertainment, you know of the highest order. And so again, you know, we can, they can parlay that into this conversation of, oh, you know, this is righteous and, and all that.

But that's the real thing. , and we take this now to what we see today relative to sport organizations, for example and how they can be better for society. I think it starts in the communities that they're involved in. So, prime example here in Los Angeles when construction was going on with SOFA Stadium, with several grassroots organizations, local businesses mind pastors who were adamantly against, you know, this move into Inglewood, you know?

Mm-hmm. , we know about gentrification, Inglewood, what that does. But the stadium was built anyway with the promise that the people in Inglewood would not have to pay increased taxes. Okay. But as organizations, for organizations in particular, build these new stadiums, they make these promises about jobs and.

education and, and, and all of that. Now take it to Steve Baller and the Clippers. They're moving from the crypto arena to build their own arena right across from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. Mm-hmm. . And their promise is that we are going to have a 100% carbon free environmentally sustainable stadium that's go, that's not going to cause a lot of issues.

As far as the health and safety of the people of Inglewood. However prices jumped from what you would consider 300 to 350,000, $400,000 condo in Inglewood to now 800,000 . And so everybody who was staying there, who was renting cause about 80% of the people in LA rent have to move. Further east to San Bernardino County, Riverside, and all of these places, but still have to drive to Inglewood for work.

And so you're talking about a two and a half hour commute one way. And you know, that's the challenge with these four organizations of they need to either collaborate with these communities and collaborate with these local governments to help build up the communities where they can sustain themselves over time.

Or don't make these promises all together. Cause that's the issue. That's the, that's the fault that they have. And these owners don't care because you know, they're making money. Like you say, they're making money. They are seeing the entertainment value. We think again, about the infrastructure of Los Angeles and the Olympics company here in 2028.

That's just five years from now. . Mm-hmm. . And the committee was saying, oh, we're gonna fix the traffic issues, , we're gonna fix the transportation issues in LA off of this. But what really is gonna happen is that, you know, the homeless community is going to be kicked out somewhere further east. People are gonna lose jobs.

We're gonna have a lot of issues with human trafficking. And the aftermath would be that they've made money, but it's still a problem with the communities that they serve. And so my, again thing is if you are going to be a sports league that's going to be committed to bringing about education and jobs and helping communities, don't just say it.

Do it. That's all I'm saying. 

David: Right. And you know, we live in a world that it's easy to say like that casually, just don't. Talk about it. Be about it, right? Yeah. And because like these leagues and individual organizations were not built on principles of anti-racism, equity, justice that shift takes time.

And I know folks are like, incrementalism is like what protects the oppressor. That's just true. And you know, when things are as egregious as, you know, Donald Sterling getting caught saying I don't want black people coming to my games. Or, you know, Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Sons has like a litany of misogynist and racist documented HR things come up, right?

Like they, they are removed from leagues, but, you know mark Cuban still has his team, right? Yeah. And the, you know, the misogyny that went on under. His watch, like the hostile work environment for women in the Dallas Mavericks organization. Like, you know, bring in a D E I person, slap that on, like, hey, fix the problem.

But, you know, what are the ways that we're actually like working towards equity, not just like you, like again, calling back to the conversations I've had with Xavier, like, you gave the slaves a day of rest, right? Or like, you made the like working conditions a little bit more tolerable and you know, in some ways, like that's all we can hope for in the places that you know, we go to be entertained.

You know, a little bit before we had this conversation. Donovan Mitchell, who is now a player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mm-hmm. used to be in Utah, one of the whitest places where there is an NBA team. So Salt Lake City. And since he's left right now, he's able to say some of the things that he wasn't able to say about like, you know, the racism that he experienced as just a black resident of Utah, but also like, you know you know, the star player or the NBA team that was there.

Right. Like, if all we're asking for, like, what, what is it that we're asking for from, you know, the Utah jazz owner, Ryan something whose name is escaping me, right. Because while I know that he is a recent tech billionaire who has, who is more likely to be oriented towards like, at least in word values of like justice inclusion, equity, right?

Like, is it even on him to fix, like. The problem of racism that exists in like the white community that is Utah. Right. I'm thinking about a, a couple years ago where there was a stand, there was a fan who was like, indefinitely banned from Utah jazz games for either saying something derogatory towards Russell Westbrook or like throwing a water bottle at him and Right.

People say like, I paid for that ticket. I deserve to be able to say anything I want. No, you don't. Right. We don't come into your workplace. As like, I like, I as like a visiting, like if I'm gonna go like, visit your colleague in the office next door to you, like I don't have the right to come in, you know, talk shit about whatever you're doing.

Much less like make racist statements. Yeah. But like the, the goal of their action of indefinite suspension rather than , you know, what is the education that we're doing with this person? What are the standards that we're setting for our fans? Right? It's one thing to say on an announcement at the beginning of the game, you know, this is who you can call the report.

Racism, harassment misogynist comments. And this is the expectation. It's another thing to like proactively say, like, in order to attend our games in order to consume our products this is how you need to be and this is why. Right? That's very, like, if I was to bring that to the owner of the Utah Jazz, I imagine like the pushback that one would get is like, that is such a large ask.

But I also think it's like really doable for a billionaire who has these resources, who can allocate to investing in both staff training community education, and, you know, , it's doable if that's what you want in the world. And if that's not what you want in the world, don't say that you are about that, you know, and, you know, you know, we may be talking ourselves in circles and like, we don't want to belittle like the small efforts that individuals are making towards equity change and making like these environments more inclusive and welcoming to people who just want to enjoy a basketball game as a black person, as a woman, as, as a queer person, right?

As as a person with disabilities, right? Like, we want to, like, make those incremental steps. But you know, as fans, like we know that these organizations aren't really about that. So , you know, how do, how do we navigate? 

Shaun: You know, here's the thing I've not only about, you know, doing the research and, and stuff but also consult with a lot of sport organizations.

and I sit down and I listen to particularly a lot of the initiatives that they want to push forward. Mm-hmm. . And the issue that I've come across overwhelmingly with these organizations is that they don't want correction . They want you to review some type of throw it against a wall and hope that it sticks a strategy that they've put together and say, and just give your approval.

You know if you review it and you challenge it and say I don't know about this, you know, you just can't say this without really understanding what your stakeholders need. You don't know, so you can't make this claim. Then they're like, oh, well, you know, we, we still want to keep it cause we think it's good.

Well, for who? You who, because you could say that. Oh. We've sent out messages, a letter of support to 90% of our black fans saying that we are in solidarity with them, but not making impact, you know, in that community is essentially a slap in the face. I did a research study on the consumption of baseball among black people.

I mean, a couple, three years ago. And it was a two-part study where the first part of the study I interviewed all of the community outreach managers, well I should say for at least half of, of the Major League baseball teams. Mm-hmm. , and asking questions like, well, how do you measure the success of these programs in the sense of saying, you're trying to get young black kids involved in the game.

You're trying to put together these Jackie Robinson Community Initiatives and Roberta Coe. How do you measure the success of these programs? You know, how do you get parents involved you know, what type of challenges have you faced in pushing forward these initiatives? And again, I I say this, they don't have a formalized measure of success.

No, no. Team does. And you would think that if baseball was trying to push out these initiatives, then their teams should be on board, whereas majority of them said well, we don't know. You know, we don't take any type of record at the end of our programs. We just. . I'm like, okay, . 

David: Yeah. What 

Shaun: does that do? And 

David: so, yeah, so like all they wanted was the initial press release.

There you go. 

Shaun: Right. An initial press release. And so it's, it's again, interesting and I'll take it back again to say that if you are a sport league that's feeling the pressure from public opinion to do something about, you know, these issues you really need to take the time to evaluate what you're putting out there, you know longitudinally, you know, so that you won't put out these one off blanket initiatives to say that you know, and, and not say that anybody can, for example, can, can solve the homelessness issue in a day.

But just for example, say, oh, we just donated. , you know, 50 blankets to X community over here when you know it's 25 degrees outside, you know, , what, what, what does that do, but make you feel better? So that's the, the issue. And I haven't talked to every sports league so far. I've talked to a few, and I'm seeing that common thread that whatever they put out there is, is it's, it's, it's just fluffy.

They have to change it. 

David: Yeah. I, I'm thinking about the, the end of the conversation about like, what does a sports fan do is like, you know, educate yourself agitate where you can and, you know, make those commitments to yourself. With, with athletes, I'm thinking about how, like, you know, , educate yourself, like the balance of like, educate yourself and like maximize your earning potential in these like maybe like two to 10 years that you have to make a million dollars plus a year.

Like I'm, I'm never gonna say to someone like, that's not the right choice for you. But then it just comes down to like, what are your values? And like who are you choosing to align yourselves with that can get problematic? , when, you know, somebody's values aren't necessarily aligned to like equity and justice, both on like the white athletes or, and I won't just say like white athletes, but like athletes who hold racist ideas.

It's like, oh, this place is too woke. Like, forget about it. . Right. Or athletes too far to the other side. Like but like, I would say like, like Mau Abdu, like a Craig Hodges like a Colin Kaepernick. Who like no longer have that platform in the way that they might have if they were participating in, in the league like that.

You know, there are no easy answers to, to like what an athlete is to do, but you know, that that value alignment and agitating where you feel you can is, you know, kind of the space that I'm left with, but like, it's not a complete and like comforting like space to land. 

Shaun: Yeah. You know, here's the thing.

You know, we, we think about any type of issue that's going on in our communities, you know, people advocate for, you know, call your local senator, call your local congressperson. Well these sport organizations have community relations arms that can be reached out to you know they. , albeit these organizations are always looking for something to pump themselves up, for example get some work with the lapd and they have a lot of youth sports programs that they are hoping to reduce recidivism, you know, to keep kids out of trouble, gang prevention, all that stuff.

But in la you know, even with the LA County Sheriff's Department, for example they were still having a lot of those issues to where they have these programs throughout these, the counties dcs. They don't know if it's working because there's no understanding of, of, for example, the kids that they bring in are usually between the ages of Seven and 18, you know, there's no record of how have they progressed over time, positively or negatively where they go after high school, whether it's a trade or, or, or college or what have you.

And so it's just again saying that, oh, we just took these group of black kids to the beach and we exposed them to life outside of their communities and we've done something positive. Yay. You know, , that that's what we see. And again right there, there's no, it is unfortunate to say, but as you know, we both mentioned, you know, there's no easy solution.

There's no way to fix it in the day. But I think because of all of the issues that many people face in their communities, whether it's. Like Flint with the water crisis, the Jackson, Mississippi. Mm-hmm. The racism in the south, the microaggressions and other places. People want change now. And as long as we know that many of these sport teams and owners don't really have a concern for social justice rather than to have a, a PR piece that says we've hired our first d e I person in this space, that we are not going to see it again tomorrow.

But again, what can be done is if they want to do something, they have to, these big leagues have to really understand their stakeholders, which are the, the society at large, the local governments, the vendors that they work with the employees who have issues with some of the things that they do. To really sit down, hammer out ideas and go from there.

Again, easier said than done, but if we make those steps, we could possibly see change. But again, it's not it. Well, it's 11:09 Pacific Standard time right now. By letter 30, it's not gonna change , 

David: right? Yeah, yeah. We're, yeah. And

with, with a statement like, this is where we are. Like, these are like some of the things that, like we've, we've talked about some progress, we've talked about things that are hopeful. We've also talked about like insurmountable barriers or, or seemingly insurmountable barriers. Like, like what energizes you to continue writing about this?

Talking about this, pushing people's thinking. 

Shaun: Yeah. You know, it's, it's amazing to me. For example, the people who had like reviewed this book early who didn't know about what athletes did in the civil rights movement, which for many people you would think that that's kind of common. And so for them to have understandings and to say, oh, you know, sports is, is much deeper than entertainment.

You know, to, to see that and to push that work keeps me going. I also teach a race culture in sport class I'm teaching this semester and it's actually maybe two black people in the class, and the rest are 20 other students are white. We, I was talking to them about the Emancipation Proclamation and, and, and how it was really was just a glorified suggestion, , and, you know, and how sports became involved and, and just to see their eyes light up and say you know, professor, this is, wow, I did not know this.

And that keeps me going to you know, continue to write about this, continue to research. and continue to hold these, these organizations employee accountable.

David: Yeah.

And I'm I, I'm just laughing something like, and that's it. Like, and that's it. Like, what else? What else, what else? Like, like, I, I, I'm, again, for those of you who have stuck with us this long, I know you're like the hardcore listeners of this restorative justice life and you know, that I battle with cynicism, right?

And hopelessness. I think, and you know, when I think about hope, like what do I hope for, like what energizes me, right? Like I want to be able to take my kids to. places to have like positive experiences, family bonding experiences. I want my kids to grow up in athletic environments where, you know, they are, you know, yeah.

Developing teamwork physical ability and you know, self-esteem and like all these things where folks do have an orientation towards like justice and equity fairness. So there's like this sense of belonging and, you know, a couple days after mlk junior day, right? Like, you know, we are building this beloved community.

And you know, that's what keeps me motivated and hopeful to like continue to push these conversations. As we're talking, I'm like, oh, like, is this like a whole nother branch of the podcast? Because. Admittedly, we've been like all over the place, nfl b a MLB across like decades and decades. And like all of these conversations deserve like deep depths of their own.

But I'm like incredibly grateful for you know, your work to continue to push these conversations to folks who either might not have had the awareness of sports history and the activism that's happened within the black community, black athletes who have been doing this work and you know, folks who are athletes or, or sports fans who are seeking like more ways to move towards justice, towards equity, towards, towards this future.

Anything else before we jump into our quick hitters that you want to touch on? 

Shaun: Yeah. You know even to go back to what you were just saying, as far as the hope, you know, I, I have to tend to agree with you as far as the, the, the larger picture is to get to the point to where we don't. have to talk about this stuff cause it's resolved, right?

That's the pie the sky. Hope at least in my lifetime, the goal is to you know, not be in a space to where I have to. And, and I get it a lot out here. You know, I'm, I'm a bigger guy to play football. To where I'm not walking next to this older white lady who is just grabbing her purse just cause she sees me come to me.

I'm like, I'm lying behind the store. What you mean? I'm, I'm paying too . You know, or just being at a point to where again, I can wake up, like you say, go to a game relax, chill. But then I can also hope for the future. And when I have kids If they are exposed to sports, you know, leverage it. In many ways, you know, consider yourself if you want to go into the owner's box, you know, if that's your path do it, but do it in a, in a, in a righteous way.

Those are the things that I consider are important as we move forward this, this, this whole life about. Yeah. 

David: Yeah. You know, and, you know, this is why conversation is so great and, you know, when

just like things that you said, like made me, made the wheels start turning for me. And when I think about, you know, building that future as a consumer, right? You know, when we talk about ideas of restorative justice, like it, it's, it's one thing to have these ideals intellectually in your mind or when, or practice within the scope of your family.

but Right. To be this person in the world means like this is relational, right? And so the way to affect change like this, you know, I did say agitate, right? And that, that is one way to do it if you're thinking about like solo and skis model of community organizing. The other way to start thinking about, you know, making these changes is to be in relationship in the places, like within the context of the relationships that you have.

What are the sports related relationships that you have that you can be pushing for more equity. You're not gonna get a direct line to the the owner of any of these sports teams, but right, there is a community relations person that you can probably start to generate a relationship with. There's probably a d e I person who you can, like LinkedIn stock and you know, you know you know, you know, start to have these conversations, right?

And like not coming in. that like, and, and I guess like you get to pick your approach, like coming in with demands or starting with like, Hey, I am a concerned person, really appreciates the product that you and your team put out. Would love to have a conversation about X, y, Z. That might be a place start.

Now I'm thinking like, shit, I might do that myself to some of our local sports teams here in the greater Los Angeles area. The man has been such a, a, a good conversation. I want to hit get to our, our quick hitter questions. They're not always that quick. We often ask folks to, in their own words, to define restorative justice.

I'm not gonna ask you to do that. I'm gonna ask you to set a vision for justice in sports.

Shaun: That we see, that we recognize sport and we see it as a platform to, to. Changed the world in effective ways. Former president of South African Nelson Mandela gave a speech where he says Sport has the power to change the world. He has the power to affect change over any other government. While that was his hope back in the year 2000 I'm hoping that then vision continues as again, we try to adjust in imperfect world through sport, sport, justice, movement.

David: Beautiful. You get to sit down we often frame it in inner circle, but you get to sit down with four athletes. Dead are alive. Who are they and what is the one question you asked that circle? 

Shaun: Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams.

Kobe Bryant.

Jackie Jony. 

David: And what is the question you asked that group? 

Shaun: The question will be what kept you going in your sport? 

David: Mm-hmm. , as you define your sport, your endeavors, what keeps you going? 

Shaun: What keeps me going? You know, , I have to, I can't lie to you. You know, when, when writing about this type of topic, you know I expect both people who love it and, and, and people who hate it.

And, you know, I just feel like there's a, there's a purpose on my life to, to push this work. And every time I try to move away from it, it, I get invigorated by it, by things that I see in the news. And so to see a better society, to see a better society for my, my children for the, the people who have grew up their children.

To see black people and people of marginalized backgrounds get to the point to where, they feel free and valued. That's what keeps you going. 

David: Mm-hmm.

Until we're all free. This is, this might be a little bit of a stretch, but thinking about, you know, these ideas of justice, sport or not related. Who's someone that I should have on the podcast and you have tell me, get them on,

Shaun: I believe. Hmm. That is a great question. There's a lot of people that's come to my mind. I have a good big homie of mine. He's in the sport and mental health space. Mm-hmm. His name is Dr. Aaron Goodson. He's the sport a sports psychologist at the University of Duke or Duke University. And a lot of his work is breaking down the stigmas of mental health among athletes and helping them receive the attention that they need medically.

He's, it's, it's interesting. I don't, I don't, I don't know if you wanna get back into the sports space where he's a opticum. You're a good person to talk to. 

David: Yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, mental health isn't an aspect that we touched, like we heavily focused on race and racism, but right when we're talking about justice, There are so many aspects intersectional aspects of you know, how we can be making spaces more equitable more inclusive.

And so we welcome that conversation. Dr. Aaron Goodson, if you're listening and you know, you will be getting an email shortly, . And then finally you know, we've got the book the Black Athlete Revolt, just the Sport Justice Movement and the Age of Black Lives Matter. Everywhere books are sold, I imagine.

But how and where can people support you in your work? 

Shaun: Yeah, so as you mentioned Amazon Bonds and Noble IndieBound or whatever books are sold but also people can reach out to me via my website which is Or you can reach out to me on Twitter at Shaun Marq speaks.

The same on Instagram. 

David: Beautiful. Love it. Of course all of those links will be in the show notes. John, thank you so much for having a very different conversation than we typically have on. This Restorative Justice Life I've certainly enjoyed myself. Hopefully we have people who've still stuck with us.

We'll be back with another episode of someone living this restorative justice life next week. Until then, take care.