Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s clear that the business of sports has shifted for good—as in permanently, and for the better. It is no longer possible to ignore human issues for the sake of “mindless entertainment,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Thursday during Day 1 of the Sports Capital Symposium, the joint virtual event put on by Monumental Sports & Entertainment and SportTechie.
As 2020 has unfolded in twists and turns, the multibillion-dollar sports industry has been thrust into uncharted territory, influencing everything from how players effect change by using their platforms to how sponsors spend money.
Consider just how much has changed . . .
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick began protesting racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem before games—a stance that led to him being effectively blackballed by NFL teams owners. That same year, WNBA players were threatened with $500 fines if they wore their uniforms inside-out or if they wore anything in support of Black Lives Matter. Now, in 2020, the NFL’s end zones feature the phrase “End Racism” and WNBA players are wearing the name of Breonna Taylor on the back of their jerseys (among other outward displays from other leagues that are promoting social justice values).
Athletes young and old, male and female, are now using their collective voice for good.
— Sam Acho, NFL player
Sports are rapidly evolving into a more empathetic industry