By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky native Michael Eaves says viewers will see “some stunning visual images” during tonight’s special programming on ESPN exploring the multi-faceted issues of racism and social justice in sports starting at 7 p.m.
The one-hour Time for Change will examine black athletes’ experiences with injustice and the unifying role that sports continues to play in bridging the divide between law enforcement and people of color in America.
Other ESPN SportsCenter anchors joining Eaves on the show will be Elle Duncan and Jay Harris along with college reporter/NBA studio host Maria Taylor. They will host a series of countable discussions with athletes and other top sports figures.
“You are going to hear some comments that are very direct and uncomfortable for some people,” Eaves said. “One thing we talk about is why it has been so uncomfortable for most white people to not even talk about these problems and why it makes them so uncomfortable.
“You will hear from black athletes about things they deal with off the field and off the court and yet are supposed to go out and compete at the highest level the same night or next day. White athletes do not have to deal with that and then try to play a game and win.”
Eaves says the recent death of George Floyd “woke up” the nation and now there is added attention and willingness to listen about police brutality, racial profiling and more,
“It’s a good opportunity to hone into these topics and bring them back to sports and how sports has alway impacted change in our society,” Eaves said.
He cited Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown , Jesse Owens, Bill Russell and others have played such a pivotal role in changing racial.
I told Eaves growing up in Danville I truly was not aware how widespread racial injustice was and working in sports have really never identified athletes by skin color.
“The flip side is I can’t remember the time I have not had to deal with race,” Eaves said. “I remember at 6 years old in western Kentucky my two cousins and I were in first grade and eighth-grade kids wanted to beat us up because they did not want us in school. That was 1978. I have always dealt with that.
“This moment speaks that you at least recognize what you have not had to deal with and that is a show of progress for so many people. Now they are listening and listening with more empathy. We are at a place now where I hope things will change and I will not be doing this same show in 10 years.”
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Programming starts at 7 p.m. with a re-air of the 30 for 30 documentary “The 16th Man.” Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film showcases the South African “Springbok” National Rugby Team and its impact on South Africa’s transition from apartheid to beginning cooperation including interviews with players and political activists alongside archival footage. Of note, June 24 is the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s famous “Sport has the power to change the world” speech at the Rugby World Cup Final in South Africa.
At 9 p.m., Giants of Africa tells the story of Masai Ujiri, currently the President of Basketball Operations for the Toronto Raptors and in 2010 became the first African-born general manager for a major North American sports team, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. The 90-minute film highlights his journey to create lasting change and empower others to dream big by growing the game of basketball in Africa. This is the U.S. premiere of the program.
At 10:30 p.m., ESPN will air the U.S. premiere of The Australian Dream, a two-hour documentary film released in Australia last year. Featuring Australian Football League (AFL) player Adam Goodes, the film examines Australian Aboriginal identity and racism in Australia, with Goodes being called an “ape” by a 13-year-old spectator as the catalyst event to his advocacy work for indigenous people. The film is an inspiring and empowering story, through which a deep and powerful narrative is told about sport, race and belonging.