I was five or six and recall being in a laundromat, but mom believes it was at a grocery store. The alleged transgression is forgotten by us both, but each remembers her towering over me index finger wagging demanding, “Who do you think you are?” I replied, “John Jioni Palmer.”
Four decades later I am still that boy, but also much more. I am a son, husband, father and eldest grandchild; storyteller, chef, leader and coach—to name a few. Each day I breathe, I endeavor to be my best at who I am, while also nurturing the desire to explore and develop new ways of being and doing.
The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism. With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns.
The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.
Every year during March Madness, I think about an article I wrote as a 19-year-old sophomore at UCLA examining the role of race and politics in college sports.
Over the past couple of years, the article has been forefront in my mind as the debate over paying college athletes has grown. Additionally, there is the controversy provoked by professional athletes like Colin Kaepernick whose decision to observe “The Star-Spangled Banner” in protest of the highly-publicized spate of police killings of unarmed Black people; Quarterback Tom Brady’s boycott of former President Obama; and the current boycott of President Trump being organized by New England Patriot players Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett.
Politics and sports have long held a close association, so much so that it is beyond laughable when commentators—professional or otherwise—suggest athletes ought to keep their opinions to themselves.