By now, we are conditioned to automatically associate activism in sports with protest. So the face of activism -- at least for a time, the face and the name attached to it in sports -- became a football quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. He spoke to his beliefs during the playing
By now, we are conditioned to automatically associate activism in sports with protest. So the face of activism -- at least for a time, the face and the name attached to it in sports -- became a football quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. He spoke to his beliefs during the playing of the National Anthem before NFL games, while he was still in the NFL.
But there are other ways to speak up, and speak out, that are no less meaningful and important. We all saw the amazing and honorable efforts of another NFL player, J.J. Watt, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a storm that came for another great American city the way Katrina once came for New Orleans. Watt became Sports Illustrated co-Sportsperson of the Year for his humanitarian efforts after Harvey, along with the Astros' Jose Altuve, who was the other face of the #HoustonStrong movement.
Now it is announced that Baylor's College of Medicine will award Watt a Doctor of Humanities for his relief efforts; for his kind of activism, out of sports and athletic stardom and the platform that sports gives to people like him if they are willing to use it.
• Tearful Rizzo speaks at vigil for Florida victims
And in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Anthony Rizzo is the latest in sports to stand up, and splendidly.
Rizzo does this as someone who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas, someone who came back home after a gunman shot and killed 17 people and wounded a dozen more at the school on Wednesday afternoon. Rizzo does this as someone who came out of that school and out of Parkland and has been allowed to live out his dreams as a Major League ballplayer and World Series champion with the Cubs.
Rizzo came home after the shooting and attended a vigil for the dead and the wounded, and when he got up to speak, he was not political. He was American. It was a fine American moment, and if Anthony Rizzo was protesting anything in Coral Springs, the site of the vigil, it was the terrible tragedy of victims who will never get to live out their own dreams the way he lived out his own.
"There are a lot of communities out there that know exactly what we're going through right now and have to relive those moments again and again," Rizzo said in a voice that was both powerful and fragile at the same time. "While I don't have all the answers, I know that something has to change before this is visited on another community and another community and another community."
He was speaking about pain and loss, and it was so clear, if you have watched video of his remarks, the pain he was feeling because this kind of tragedy had come to his school now, his town; really to his own history and his own American story. He spoke of having been in those hallways and in those classrooms and played on the playing fields of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It was Anthony Rizzo's community this time.
"I come home to Parkland to what should be everybody's first concern, and that's showing our kids out there -- the students at Stoneman Douglas and of Broward County and from all over the country -- that we care about their lives and about their future," Rizzo said. "I've been very impressed with talking to the students and how they're taking care of each other and how they're coming together. I'm so grateful to the teachers, the coaches, the administration and all the first responders that tried to protect them."
Everyone knows that spring is such a wonderful time of renewal in baseball. Spring Training is just beginning in Florida and in Arizona, where Rizzo's Cubs train. Now all of these lives have been lost at Rizzo's old school, most of them young lives. And at a time when so much of the country does kneel over this -- in prayer -- Rizzo came home and stood up and spoke to what had happened, spoke from the heart in such a moving way about what had happened.
"I promise you we're going to be mourning, grieving and a bit broken for a while," Rizzo said. "We're human. But I promise the cameras are going to move on. The demands of everyday life will intrude again. Classes will start again. The seasons are going to change and the sun is going to rise. And all we'll have left is each other. We don't know who's hiding their sadness or feelings of guilt and loneliness, or who needs help and is too proud or afraid to ask. So we have to be there for each other, we have to cope with our pain and we have to live each other's pain. We have to be the best possible versions of ourselves."
That was Rizzo's message in Coral Springs, as he stood there on the stage in a black shirt with a red ribbon pinned to the front of it. Somehow in this moment, he did find a way to speak to the best possible version of ourselves. At the same time, Rizzo spoke eloquently about his country, as eloquently as anybody in the country has in the aftermath of this tragedy. They taught him well at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.