By Dominick J Fils-Aimé| August 26, 2016
The Chicago Police department declined to participate in a televised discourse, presented by ESPN’S First Take, concerned with race, law enforcement, gun violence and other social issues. The program, titled “An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility, and Violence”, was produced by ‘The Undefeated’, one of the premier media platforms exploring the relationship between sports, race and culture.
The discussion, which took place on August 25th during a town hall at the South Side YMCA of Metro Chicago, consisted of a diverse cast of former professional athletes, active pros, sports writers, activists, clergy members, coaches, executives and historians. Among the distinguished participants were Chicago Bulls’ point guard Rajon Rondo, social commentator Dr. Erick Michael Dyson, Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Jabari Parker, Chicago native Isiah Thomas and ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon, also Chicago native.
“Sports are great bridge builders in our country, bringing together people who think differently and live differently,” said Kevin Merida, ESPN Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated.
“Athletes, in greater numbers, have been saying they want to use their influence to drive social change. We hope this townhall will help push that conversation forward.”
Unfortunately, the voices of the Chicago PD, one of the largest polices forces in the United States with over 12,000 members, elected not to send a single representative to participate in the town hall, denying themselves the opportunity to engage in an important discourse with the community they serve.
“It’s very disappointing that the Chicago Police elected not to show up, you are in the streets. I think there is brutality on the part of some police officers, but the vast majority of police officers do their job in terms of protecting and striving to serve their communities. If you are one of those people, which should be the many, why you’re not here to explain and highlight some of the trials and tribulations that you go through [is beyond me],” said sports journalist, commentator, and ESPN’S First Take co-host Stephen A. Smith. One of the many ESPN contributors who participated in the town hall, “I’m incredibly disappointed that they passed up on that opportunity”.
The Chicago police force and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have come under widespread scrutiny from minority communities, particularly after the revelation of a scathing 183 page report implicating the department for practicing racial bias and police misconduct. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to reform the city’s police culture after further investigations showed police stuck with untrue narratives to make fatal shootings look justified.
The contentious relationship between the Chicago task force and the black community reached its tipping point after the 2014 shooting death of black teen, Laquan McDonald, by a CPD officer and the long delay associated with the release of the dashcam footage of the incident. The video showed the teenager walking away from police, armed with a knife. The teen was then shot once by a responding officer, who had not been on the scene for more than 30 seconds, before discharging his firearm. After McDonald fell to the ground, the officer stopped firing for a moment, then opened fire again unloading 15 more shots into the already wounded suspect, contrary to the claims he reported.
Chicago, almost appropriately referred to by the youth as “Chi-raq”, has experienced a phenomenal level of gun violence. This year alone, the windy city has registered over 450 homicides and nearly 3,000 shooting victims. The city is poised to surpass the number of shooting victims recorded last year in 2015. The city is also murred by economic and educational deprivation, among other defects.