Since the senseless murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers, there have been a justified outcry for the injustice and racism of officer Derek Chauvin, who is White, pinning his knee on the neck of George Floyd, who is Black, until he suffocated - along with three other officers From online reactions and postings to demonstrations in real life, the message is clear: this cannot continue, enough is enough, Black people deserve to be treated as people. The horrible murder and the subsequent reactions have led many who have otherwise been silent for one reason to be another to not be silent anymore. Players (like Connor Carrick), teams (like the New Jersey Devils, who also posted this video today), and even leagues (like the NHL) have made all kinds of statements of denouncing police brutality, support for Black Lives Matter, and/or recognizing the racial inequality that has existed but has not been adequately dealt with.
Some have went further, such as what P.K. Subban did today. He tweeted a minute-long video stating the following:
- An brief explanation of what “Change the Game” means. That the narrative has been no justice has to change. There needs to be justice.
- Everyone needs to be involved in this change and see how they can help make this possible.
- An announcement that he has donated $50,000 to the GoFundMe page of George Floyd’s six-year old daughter, Gianna.
- An announcement that he reached out Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, to see if the league would match the $50,000 donation. They agreed and so they did.
- A request that anyone who can donate consider doing so to the GoFundMe.
Subban has also been retweeting and passing on many of the statements online by players, by others involved, and these do include other ways to show your support. This is a commendable action by Subban. It is worth applauding. Not just to make a substantial donation, not just to make others aware of it, but also to ask the NHL commissioner if the league will get involved. And they did. That is something to encourage. This is another reason why Subban is a superstar and humanitarian (see: Blueline Buddies, his $10 million donation to a Montreal children’s hospital), although that is besides the point.
Just as much as we should encourage players to speak out against racism in hockey and in society. They may not be perfect statements but statements can always be revised. Standing athwart the current situation and saying, “No more” is a good first step as any. So is supporting causes that aim to change the systems that result in police brutality and a police force that targets black people in many areas - such as what Anthony Duclair posted recently on his own account, which Subban and many other players have also shared.
I fully agree with the messages sent by Subban and others. This is a status quo that must go. To that end, here are some additional suggestions that have come to my mind for the past week or so:
- Reach out to your local municipalities and question what they will do about the police. Not every city, town, township, or borough has the same issues. But you can still reach out to them, be it through a town hall session or even an email to the town’s site, and press the issue. If you do this, please be polite and specific.
- Reach out to your state representatives either at the federal level or even at the state as a whole and raise the same questions. Follow-up as needed. There’s a Congressional bill in draft that would remove qualified immunity for police officers. This would mean victims of brutality can sue them. This alone will not be enough, but it is absolutely worth asking your senator or representative (assuming you are in America) if they support it or, if not, what they would support. In New Jersey, which is where I am, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced plans to put a public database together for police use of force and to have officers licensed to work in NJ. These alone will not be enough, but these are plans that can lead to further reform. It is absolutely worth asking the state senators and assembly people, as well as local municipalities, how they intend to make these plans a reality. Again, if you do this, please be polite and specific.
- When the time comes, vote for those who will make changes for police reform. Turnout for local elections is typically low. This means there are elections where one vote really can make a difference between who is the sheriff or who could be on the local board when police union contracts are re-negotiated. Be sure that the effort for change is there. If not, vote someone else in who will push for change.
- Actively educated about police brutality and reform efforts. Earlier today, CJ re-tweeted Chris Watkins, who posted a link to a Frontline documentary about the Newark Police Department called Policing the Police. It is led and narrated by Jelani Cobb, who rode with and followed the NPD first-hand in 2016, shortly after Ras Baraka was elected mayor. The issues of brutality, treatment of Black citizens, and the struggles of changing a system are presented first-hand. It is absolutely relevant to current events. As our favorite team plays in Newark and games always have a police presence by the NPD, it is relevant to us that the police can be trusted to do their job. This documentary highlights how that trust was lost so much that even the federal government demanded reform. I learned a great deal from it, it put a lot of what people are saying in a better context, and it showed how complex addressing systems are. I highly recommend it. This is not the only documentary or expose or reporting about the ills of the police, and so I encourage you all to find what you can and learn more about what is out there. (Another suggestion: This extensive article about misconduct by the Edison police.)
- Likewise, I encourage you to learn about efforts like the Campaign Zero: Research Library, which provides research and data-based recommendations for police reform.
- Listen and acknowledge Black people when they say they are hurt and they are tired of someone being hurt or murdered before someone recognizes this. Listen and acknowledge when Black people detail how they get a raw deal if they get pulled over while others do not. Listen and acknowledge when Black players explain that their challenges in the sport are different than others. Resist the temptation to argue or dismiss or minimize it. A lot of people feel like they are not being heard. That requires more than just hearing or reading the words, it means validating their feelings and what they are saying. It may be tough to hear or see. But it must be done and it is the least you and I can do about the issues raised in the past week or so.
The above is not is an exhaustive list or meant to be one. It is a list of ways that I think could help based on what others have promoted and stated over the past week or so. There are other means and ways to support these efforts for much-needed police reform that would benefit everyone. There are other methods to show our compassion for the victims of police brutality and abuse. There are other activities to show that Black lives matter. Above all else, we should follow Subban’s example and make attempts to “Change the Game.” The game absolutely needs to be changed. Thank you for reading.