As Americans wake up every morning to new videos of militarized police forces brutalizing peaceful protesters, calls to defund the police have seemingly gained unprecedented support. And several of our biggest celebrities, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe, are lending support to the cause.
Rapinoe signed a public letter this week urging local governments to decrease police budgets in favor of spending more on healthcare, education and other social services. The letter was authored by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who’s also a founding member of the Movement 4 Black Lives, which encompasses more than 100 Black-rights organizations.
John Legend, Common, Lizzo, Jane Fonda and ACLU executive director Anthony Romero have also signed the letter. A full list of signees could not be found.
The wide-ranging letter addresses the killing of George Floyd, along with the deaths of unarmed Black people such as Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, tying police violence into the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on communities of color. African-American deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population, and Latinx people test positive for the virus at rates higher than would be expected based on their share of the population in all but one of the jurisdictions reporting Latinx ethnicity data.
“The COVID-19 deaths and the deaths caused by police terror are connected and consequential to each other,” the message reads. “The United States does not have a national healthcare system. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments in the world, too.”
The letter points out state and local government spending on police and corrections increased from $60 billion in 1977 to $194 billion in 2017 — even as violent crime continues to fall (adjusted to current dollars).
On Twitter, Rapinoe has been sharing messages of support for the protests. The USWNT co-captain is one of the most outspoken social activists in sports, leading the team’s charge for equal pay. She previously knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality, and show solidarity with the Black community.
“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” Rapinoe wrote in The Players’ Tribune in 2016. “But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache.”
Many LGBT athletes and sports figures have spoken out against systemic racism and police brutality since Floyd’s death. Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud penned a poignant essay in The Players’ Tribune, titled, “Your silence is a knee of my neck.”
LZ Granderson, the nation’s most prominent openly gay sports columnist, has also authored a series of must-read columns, including a harrowing look at the “special hell” reserved for Black journalists covering the story.
Pro tennis player Jeremy Sonkin published an exceptional first-person essay on Outsports, explaining his experiences as a Black man in America, and why it is long past time for change.
As athletes fill the leadership void, expect LGBT voices, and LGBT voices of color in particular, to become even more prominent in the discussion. This extraordinary movement is not only about Floyd’s unjust death. It is about abolishing systemic oppression in all forms.
As the letter says, just imagine how all of the money could be allocated if bloated police budgets were decreased.
“It could go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future,” it reads. “The possibilities are endless.”