Sports world is not staying silent

Sports world is not staying silent

The moment of silence didn’t last long this time. Someone in the crowd at Boston’s TD Garden interrupted it by yelling, “Do something!,” per reporters in the arena Friday night. Then others yelled, too.

When the scoreboard flashed a message urging fans to “SUPPORT COMMON SENSE GUN LAWS” and “CONTACT YOUR U.S. SENATORS,” the masses roared, just like crowds in San Francisco and Miami had done upon seeing similar messages at other NBA games after the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde.

In terms of bold statements, this wasn’t much. But it was something, at least, and with their cheers, it was as if the fans were screaming, “Finally!” As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr so eloquently noted a few hours after 19 students and two teachers were killed on Tuesday, people are tired of empty condolences and hollow platitudes.

Not long ago, NBA teams would have been terrified to post anything tangential to politics on their Jumbotrons. A Major League Baseball manager would have rather ordered Barry Bonds to bunt than to publicly announce his plans to skip the national anthem, as the Giants’ Gabe Kapler did this week. And MLB owners would have had their public-relations teams fired for spending an entire game dedicating their Twitter accounts to facts about gun violence, the way the Yankees and Rays did Thursday night.

But how can there be any inoffensive middle ground on mass shootings in supermarkets, in houses of worship, in fourth-grade classrooms? When a coach like the Falcons’ Arthur Smith tries to please everyone by blaming a process “broken on both sides,” which two sides does he mean? What, exactly, is the “other side” when it comes to outrage over Uvalde?

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” Howard Zinn, the late historian and World War II veteran, said years ago, and now the people who run sports teams are starting to understand what he meant. The train is taking us all somewhere, and those who sit still and do nothing are in essence deciding to go along for the ride.

Kapler, for one, isn’t going to do that anymore. The former Texas Rangers outfielder and current Giants manager wrote a blog post this week explaining that he “felt like a coward” for not protesting “the lack of delivery on the promise of what our national anthem represents” after the Uvalde shooting, and he told reporters he will not take the field for the anthem “until (he) feel(s) better about the direction of our country.”

Kapler echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Kerr, the former Spurs guard whose father was shot to death in 1984 and whose emotional pregame monologue about gun violence last Tuesday dominated social-media feeds and was played on news broadcasts across the country.

It also prompted the predictable and disingenuous “What about Chicago?” and “What about China?” responses from those who aren’t really interested in discussing where the guns in Chicago were bought in the first place, or talking about why sports leagues have more of an obligation to stay out of China than businesses like Boeing or General Motors do.

Kerr, to his credit, has owned up to botching his answers about the NBA’s response to human-rights abuses in China. Two summers ago, during an appearance on the “Political Breakdown” podcast, he admitted he looked like “a deer in the headlights” when he shied away from answering a question about the issue the first time.

“I handled it horribly,” Kerr said. “I regret my answer to this day. I sort of gave it ‘no comment,’ and then said something else. It was really embarrassing.”

Now, it would be just as embarrassing if coaches, players, teams and leagues tried to avoid offending anyone when talking about gun laws. When Smith attempted that while speaking to the Falcons’ press contingent on Friday, he made sure to insist he doesn’t “care about your politics” before suggesting “a compromise solution to keep military grade assault weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people.”

Well, if that is considered a “compromise,” it says something about the debate. And as this train of relentless sadness keeps moving, no person — and no franchise — is neutral.

Silent or not.