World Sport Chicago, an independent non-profit organization, supports resiliency and strengthens community by increasing access to youth sport. Formed in 2007 as the non-profit legacy organization of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, World Sport Chicago has a deeply rooted understanding of the power of sport. World Sport Chicago takes action to connect children to the caring mentors, safe spaces, and supportive networks that help them thrive. One of the non-profit’s main events is Chicago Paints the World, a high-end fundraiser that brings together sports, celebrities and philanthropy.
Chicago Paints the World, which occurred on Thursday, November 2nd, paired some of Chicago's most renowned celebrities with P. Scott Sinclair of NYCH Art Gallery to create one-of-a-kind artwork that was showcased and auctioned off during a night to remember. This high-end cocktail style event brought together celebrities, business leaders and supporters as they enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and an open bar while browsing the artwork and taking part in the auction.
This event was successful for a few reasons: First, this event stood out because it felt like a high-end gala. Everything from the event space, DJ, hors d’oeuvres and alcohol were top notch, yet much of the alcohol and auction items were donated. As a result, the overhead expenses were minimal, without compromising the look and feel of the event. The DJ had a playlist that kept the excitement high and everyone buzzing throughout the night. Second, each art piece was unique and held special meaning to each artist. Next to each piece of art stood the artist, which helped increase bids on the mobile auction site. As guests would walk around and peruse the art, the celebrity artist would be there to engage with the individual and persuade him or her to bid on the artwork. Finally, the key to any great live auction is the auctioneer. He or she needs to be able to work a room and get guests excited to bid on the artwork. The auctioneer was successful in all of these regards, which helped increase bids and raise more money for World Sport Chicago. When you add all of these characteristics together, you have a recipe that made Chicago Paints the World a rousing success.
By: Erica Prosser
In a time when sport is typically a powerful unifying force, the NFL social justice protests have become as divisive as any issue we’ve seen. The story is this: generally speaking, black athletes are kneeling in protest during the national anthem, and white fans are infuriated. And, just like with any politically charged issue, the protests' opposition has hijacked the narrative. To be clear, black athletes are taking a knee to protest police brutality, criminal injustice, and racial inequality. They are not protesting the anthem or the military that fights to protect us, contrary to the stories we have been hearing from national news outlets.
This protest has done exactly what a protest is meant to do - make people pay attention. But instead of discussing the issue at hand - police brutality, racial inequality, and criminal justice reform - we are discussing the gesture. Unfortunately, privileged white people have distorted the narrative to make this about the military. If a player kneels, he doesn’t respect the flag, the country, or soldiers. Last time I checked, patriotism isn't just about the military. It's about loving your country and being proud of its ideals and values. Men and women of color who are subjected to systematic racism do not feel loved by their country, valued by their neighbors, or proud of the systems that continuously fail them. They are trying to live in the freedom that they are supposedly granted by the flag and everything it stands for.
We hear, “What about the men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedom?” To everyone who asks that, please take a moment to ask yourself a different question: what about the lives of innocent people of color that have been taken by police brutality and mass incarceration? They don't matter because they weren't wearing camo? This rhetoric and vitriol is exactly why the Black Lives Matter movement started in the first place. By making this argument about disrespecting fallen soldiers, you are saying these black lives don't matter as much as soldiers' lives, if at all. Soldiers should undoubtedly be respected for their sacrifice. But so should people of color. While you stand for your fallen brothers and sisters, they will kneel for theirs.
That leads us to a second argument from the opposition: keep politics out of sports. Find a different way to protest. If you have a TV to tune into the NFL, then you certainly have a TV to watch the news. And you will know that no matter what method of protest people of color employ, there is unrelenting criticism. Marching? No. Pulling down statues? No. Rioting? Absolutely not. They can’t march, can't gather in the streets, definitely can't incite violence, and now, they can't kneel. Please, white people, tell us what they can do? Oh, I know - shut up, and play football.
Can we, for a moment, consider the minstrel show that is professional football? We have predominantly black teams competing in an arena while predominantly white owners sell tickets to other white people to watch the competition. So, when I hear that absurd argument to keep politics out of sports, I hear: “Just do what your told, win games, we will let you stick around. We will continue to show faux-support, as long as you continue to entertain us. But the second you step out of line, we will metaphorically, if not physically, lynch you.” When you argue to keep politics out of sports, you are admitting, "I'm uncomfortable with you bringing my privilege to my attention. I turn on the TV because you are entertainment; you are money-making machines. I don't pay for your humanity, your intelligence, or your feelings. I pay to use your body as my entertainment.”
Argument number three: “Rich black athletes are luckier than most to be making millions playing sports. They are not the people who should be protesting the system.” Okay, so rich black men can't protest, but when is the last time we listened to a poor black man's concerns? Oh, that's right - never. We are telling an entire population that it doesn’t matter what they accomplish, how much they earn, what kind of notoriety and/or influence they enjoy, that their voices, feelings, experiences, and lives do not matter. They are worthless unless they are entertaining us, the white majority.
This incredibly important dialogue should not be about ratings, or patriotism, or even if Colin Kaepernick should have a job. It’s about racial inequality and the symptomatic effects that plague Americans of color. The question becomes, how do those protesting regain control of the narrative? I believe it may require a comprehensive set of actionable goals. What is the end game? What are some tangibles that we can work towards as a collective group?
Of course, we’ve seen some movement by individual players and even some teams. Colin Kaepernick has donated nearly $1 million to social justice programs. Malcom Jenkins is lobbying for criminal justice reform on Capitol Hill. The Miami Dolphins have created a player-owner social justice fund. It's clear that NFL athletes, and professional athletes in general, have incredible power and influence to disrupt the system. We need to identify concrete goals to work against, not only to silence the opposition, but ultimately, to improve the quality of life for people of color in the United States.
By: Eric Shainock
The NFL National Anthem protests were born in 2016 – at first, Colin Kaepernick took a seat. There was some uncertainty into what the protests stood for. Many people felt it was disrespectful to those in our armed forces to sit for the national anthem. After a meeting with Nate Boyer, a former football player and a Green Beret, Kaepernick decided to take a knee instead of sit on the bench. In addition, Kaepernick had begun to communicate the meaning of his protests in an eloquent manner: he was protesting what he believed were racial inequalities and police brutality issues in the United States.
A few teammates joined in on the protests as well as a few players across the league. By and far, the protests remained isolated and not much more was thought of it. At the end of the NFL season, Kaepernick even announced he would stand the following season if he were signed as to not be a distraction with a future employer. What ensued would engulf the entire 2017 NFL season and make its way onto the national landscape.
Kaepernick never did sign with an NFL team. Whispers grew louder and eventually turned into conversations – was he being blackballed by the owners and the NFL because of his protests the year before? It didn’t help that President Trump traveled to Alabama on Friday September 22, 2017 for a political speech, only to go off on a tangent. He said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” In essence, the president had changed the conversation and said that anyone that doesn’t stand for the anthem is against America and our troops. By twisting the words of Kaepernick and those that followed after him, the message had been diluted. That Sunday following, hundreds of NFL players protested the national anthem, and in effect, the comments made by the president. He backed the league, the owners and the players into a corner and united them momentarily. The NFL had a signature moment to be leaders in the social activism space and many of the athletes and teams exercised their right to peacefully protest.
Ironically, an issue that had been relatively dormant had completely engulfed the NFL and become the storyline around the country. Again, the NFL and its ownership wanted the issue to go away because it was bad for business. Despite the players, time and time again, telling the media that this was a protest against police brutality and racial inequalities, the message was misconstrued once it got to the general public. A public relations crisis had occurred. Sponsors wanted the NFL to “get back to football” as did some of the owners. However, those in socially conscious markets, such as Seattle and San Francisco, have been supportive of their players and their desire to protest. At the end of the day, those cities would react differently than Dallas or Washington, D.C. Both sides agreed to come to the table to discuss what type of reform could be made so that the protests would stop, yet players would be able to advocate for causes important to them. In what was a landmark meeting, it seemed as if progress had been made on both sides when the NFLPA, NFL and players met in New York City in early October.
Then came the bombshell article by Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. It peeled back the curtain further on the meetings and conversations surrounding the NFL anthem protests. One line of the article stands out in particular and reignited the divisive issue:
The duo wrote, “As Jones spoke, Snyder mumbled out loud, ‘See, Jones gets it -- 96 percent of Americans are for guys standing,’ a claim some dismissed as a grand overstatement. McNair, a multimillion-dollar Trump campaign contributor, spoke next, echoing many of the same business concerns. ‘We can't have the inmates running the prison,’ McNair said.” Another public relations crisis was born. Whether this was taken out of context or not is difficult to know. The issue is that there was a long-held stereotype by some of the players that they were just “slaves” or a “workforce” for the owners. McNair’s comments only reinforced this idea. At a time when the league and its teams badly needed leadership to stay united, it only continued to fracture. About 10 Texans players left the facility after they found out about McNair’s comments. Most of the players who left returned to the facility and the remaining players were talked out of their protest by the coaching staff. To his credit, coach Bill O’Brien said, “I’m 100 percent with these players.” He is a coach who understood that his team was at a fork in the road and he needed to back his players or risk losing them. That Sunday, multiple protest options were floated around by the team and the media. In the end, the entire team outside of five or six players knelt during the national anthem.
As November approached, the issue flared up again. John Schnatter, Papa Johns CEO, said in a conference call regarding the company’s third quarter earnings, that shares of the company were down due to the NFL anthem protests and its lack of leadership. He said, “Good or bad, leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership. This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.” What made this such a polarizing comment is that some of the most outspoken owners in the NFL had financial investments and ties to Papa Johns. Was this an attack orchestrated by the owners or simply a huge sponsor pushing back on the NFL? To top it all off, Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL for collusion. Owners and league employees are being asked to turn over pertinent records as a part of the grievance and this seems to be the tip of the iceberg.
At the end of the day – who is to blame for the decline in ratings and potential loss of NFL revenue? The owners and sponsors can blame the players for taking a knee and protesting the national anthem, but that seems like the easy way out. It’s true that the anthem protests raised a large amount of awareness for an issue, but what else did it do? Was actual change effected by the protests? Entering the 2017 season, the protests were relatively minor and had been stable. Only until the president directly attacked the league did politics enter the national conversation on a daily basis. Did the president know what he was doing by playing to his base and misconstruing the anthems true intent? These are all questions that will be answered as the NFL season continues as we see how sponsors respond and how the league and players work together.