For years, the traditional sports industry has battled charges of sexism, racism and homophobia. But as of late, professional sports seem to have found redemption by being a fierce advocate for social change. The same, however, can’t always be said for the gaming community.
In recent years, the world of traditional sports has used social media to reach out to fans in powerful ways. Players have used their platforms to draw attention to social causes, sometimes sacrificing their careers along the way, as was the case of Colin Kaepernick. Recently, however, entire teams have taken a stand. Last Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks performed a wildcat strike, refusing to play in Game 5 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Likewise, players across the NBA and WNBA voiced their support and leagues postponed all games. The response, however, wasn’t just limited to basketball. Last Thursday, the New York Mets and Miami Marlins walked off the field together after a moment of silence, laying a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they left. Meanwhile, tennis star Naomi Osaka lead a walkout of a WTA event that also postponed the men’s tournament.
We are united for change. 🧡💙
A post shared by New York Mets (@mets) on
Although criticized by many extremists, players and teams have powerfully advocated for social justice. It wasn’t all for show either. By the end of the week, the NBA and the NBA Players Association announced that they would collaborate on the establishment of a social justice coalition, ads “dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity,” and work with local election officials to use facilities as “a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID.”
Meanwhile, the gaming community has yet to show such decisive leadership. In recent months, the video game industry has been rocked by accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination, yet the responses have been individual rather than collective with some companies taking steps to improve working conditions.
In addition, developers have integrated important messages into games as is the example of Madden NFL 21, where players can customize their visors and compression sleeves with messages like “End Racism,” or F1 2020, which has embraced the sport’s #WeRaceAsOne campaign. While these efforts are certainly a step in the right direction, they lack the power of the response of the traditional sports community.
Perhaps the gaming community doesn’t have the cohesion of the sports world, or players simply don’t enjoy the financial freedom that professional athletes do. But given that the gaming industry is growing by leaps and bounds, it might be a good time to develop a singular voice that transcends games or leagues. The gaming industry needs to send a clear and compassionate message to society that mirrors what many of us are thinking and feeling at this moment in time.
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