Last week, the sports world was once again put on pause. However, it was not due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks participated in a team-wide strike of their first-round playoff contest with the Orlando Magic in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. The conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter and social justice ignited once more, sports leagues around the country stood still. Some for a day, some for two or three days.
In total, players and teams from the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, WNBA, Major League Soccer and the Women’s Tennis Association all participated in the strike. Several college football programs also canceled practice or staged walkouts on Thursday and Friday.
For Mesabi Range College men’s basketball coach Tamara Moore, the protest of Jacob Blake’s shooting wasn’t exactly a re-igniting of the conversation she’s had with her team.
“The conversation started a lot earlier,” Moore said. “We talked about it during the George Floyd situation. I feel like because my team is a large majority African American, we had to have those conversations. We have guys coming in from a lot of places like Florida, Atlanta, Kentucky, Chicago and all across Minnesota. We’re a diverse team coming from all across the country so it was an important conversation to have and to keep having.”
Part of that conversation with her team was discussing what the players want to accomplish during their time in Northeastern Minnesota.
“We want to build bridges. Not just between us as a team, but with the community. We want to be out in the town, doing events, going to the schools to speak with the kids. Obviously things are difficult right now with COVID, but we want to be involved with the community and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
“It was nice to see during all this that there were marches in Virginia and other towns in the area. It’s about starting the conversation and really being able to show that we want to bridge the gap between the communities they come from and the communities they come to to learn and play basketball.”
The discussion on Black Lives Matter, police brutality and the place they hold in the sports world was on full display last week in many circles from large organizations to small town teams. But that’s not where everything started Moore explained.
“The stem of it all is Colin Kaepernick with his decision to kneel during the national anthem four years ago. Of course, the protest wasn’t about the anthem but it was about the big platform for what the anthem signifies in our country. I think it’s grown from there and that was the root and now it’s blossoming throughout the sports world. It might look like basketball was where it started this time, but they’re the ones in season right now. Baseball is in season right now. Football is in their preseason. It’s happening everywhere now but it all started from one place.”
A Minneapolis native, Moore has thought to herself many times over the last few months about the way she can impact change in the multiple communities she’s a part of.
“I think about how I can be positive in any place I go. I want to step into every place with a genuine heart and think about how I can make positive change no matter what’s going on.
This past June, Moore was a part of the Floyd Justice Festival in Minneapolis, an event designed to showcase unity, support the value of justice and push for equality. It featured vendors, live performances, silent auctions and giveaways. Moore says that’s just one example of healing the Black community was in need of in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
“There was a lot of uproar, unrest and negativity in the community that myself and many of my players come from. It was something I could do to give back and this is how I wanted to affect change and impact the things going on in the world. I know it’s not everybody’s way of doing things. Some feel like they need to be marching on the front lines for a protest. You can have that and then have the other side of it as well with these community gatherings.”
Moore drew comparisons to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, the 57th anniversary of which was this past Friday.
“We saw people march again this past weekend in Washington D.C. fighting for equality. People are marching together and creating these beautiful moments of solidarity that help us push even harder for change. Those moments are helping making connections with our youth who are going to be the next ones to affect change even further.”
Moore says she’s also trying to bring change on the campus of Mesabi Range in a capacity bigger than a head coach.
“I want to connect with all the teams not just as a coach but someone that wants to help and bring about change. It can be the football team or the women’s basketball team or the softball team. It’s not just one group of people. If we all start working together to bring about change, it’s going to help everybody.”
Moore says that anyone can bring about change, no matter where they are or what community they belong to.
“I think the most important thing someone can do is just start volunteering in your community or even out of it if you can’t find anything. There are some negative sides to social media but it also has some beautiful sides that allow you to find out how you can help volunteer and bring about change. It’s hard to organize events and put things together but there are many people out there that want to do something and be heard.”
While Moore is, ultimately, a basketball coach, building those bridges and making connections are just as important off the court as they are on the court.
“As much as COVID will allow us to, I’d love to be out there volunteering all the time. I want Mesabi Range to just be an overall great place and a time in my player’s lives that they can look back on positively. Yes, we’re trying to win championships but making positive impacts in our communities is a step towards making change.”