Lying: A lesson in principled protest: U2, the awakened NBA and apartheid | Notice
I was born in Denver in the early 1960s, but as of November 8, 1987, I was living in South Florida, which was a shame for me because that night McNichols Sports Arena – a hockey and basketball arena – ball that served as the home of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and a host of other sports teams from 1975 to 1999 – was the only place on the planet I wish I had been.
McNichols was located next to the original Mile High Stadium in what is now the parking lot of the current Denver Broncos home, Empower Field in Mile High. In 2000, McNichols was demolished in favor of the Pepsi Center, which is home to both the Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.
Why would I have liked to be at the McNichols Arena that night 33 years ago? Because the Irish rock group U2, one of the most popular musical groups on the planet, performed there. Not only that, but they were recording the gig for an upcoming movie on their epic Joshua Tree tour titled “Rattle and Hum”.
And that night, U2 – whose lead singer Bono (full name Paul Hewson) at 27 was already known to speak out on social issues – used the band’s song “Silver and Gold” to address the bigger one. social problem of the western world. day, the government system of “apartheid” in South Africa.
“In the shithouse, a hunting rifle. Praying hands hold me back. Only the hunter is hunted in this city of cans.
Apartheid was the latest example in Western civilization of overtly institutionalized and government sanctioned racism. In 1987, the great Nelson Mandela, who would become president of South Africa, was still three years from the end of his 27-year prison sentence for the crime of opposing apartheid.
“Broken in the ceiling. Broken nose on the ground. I scream and the silence crawls. He crawls under the door.
Today we unambiguously understand apartheid as the blatantly perverse system of oppression that it was. It’s seen that way in large measure due to the risks taken by artists such as Steven Van Zant, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and many others, who have spoken out and boycotted South Africa amid the 1980s. At the time, conventional wisdom saw this position as economic suicide for the superstars of society to take such a position against a sovereign nation with close economic and political ties to Britain and the United States. .
But the celebrity-led opposition gained international popularity, and although it took time, South Africa in 1990 freed Nelson Mandela and ended apartheid. So what would such a courageous, principled protest look like today?
The closest contemporary action I can think of would be, say, current NBA stars refusing to play or have their likenesses used for profit in China. Why? The NBA, perhaps the most popular single sports league in the world, earns hundreds of millions a year in China through the sale of NBA products and television broadcasting of NBA games. But like South Africa before it, the brutal, institutionalized, government-sanctioned incarceration of this communist nation of one million members of its ethnic minority – commonly referred to in the West as Uyghur Muslims – also constitutes business as usual. as the expert from china. Roger Garside calls this communist regime the “systemic cultural genocide” of its religious and minority populations.
“The director says the release is sold. If you want a way out. Silver and gold. “
The NBA demonstrated its lack of principled vision last year by failing to back Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who showed the temerity to tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters fighting for democracy. China acted in a punitive manner, triggering the league’s dependence on short-term profit on democratic principles, and halted its flow of easy money to the NBA. The NBA, grotesquely enough, gave in as if facing economic suicide if it supported a public policy statement from one of its team leaders.
Morey was berated by his team owner and NBA officials for his tweet, and Houston Rocket superstar James Hardin has publicly apologized to China for the statement. Such actions were reminiscent of a world where nations tiptoed around South Africa’s apartheid system.
How far we have not come.
This is just one example. When was the last time you saw a major media or sports celebrity take a personal or financial risk in favor of a principled position for or against a moral issue that was not first addressed by those? who had real courage decades ago?
As for McNichols’ missed opportunity, a few weeks later, on December 3, 1987, I watched U2 play at a different, now-defunct stadium, the Orange Bowl in Miami. I still have the ticket.
And as for U2? Today, the combined net worth of the four band members, Bono, the Edge (David Howell Evans), Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton, is around $ 1.8 billion. So much for the financial risk of doing the right thing when you are the most popular thing in the world, and the myopia and narrow-mindedness of today’s athletes and celebrities who fail to see the value of a truly principled protest.
“A prize fighter in the corner is said. Hit where it hurts, for silver and gold.
Readers can watch U2’s extraordinary “Silver and Gold” live performance that night at the McNichols Arena at the following YouTube link: youtu.be/jmuhR3gqxZM