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Column: Sports are coming back, but it’s really hard to get excited about that. Not when the country continues to fail its people.

The absence of the four major sports in America for the last three months has been perhaps the clearest indicator of how abnormal things feel in the country at the moment. And it’s one reason people will so eagerly welcome sports back on their television as a sign, real or imagined, of everything getting back to normal.

But the state of the country the last few weeks has made it difficult to get excited about the imminent return of games, playoffs and championships — especially when it could not be more clear that a return to normal is not the answer.

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Not when George Floyd is dead after an independent autopsy concluded what the world already saw on video: His death was caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression. Not when the fallout from his death has spread beyond Minneapolis and traveled around the country, filling the streets with protesters.

Even with stay-at-home orders forcing the nation indoors, so many black deaths went mostly ignored before protests forced people to pay attention. Ahmaud Arbery was dead for months for running through a suburban neighborhood in Georgia before an arrest was made. Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her home in Louisville, Ky., in the middle of the night when officers entered her home with a no-knock search warrant, and her killers have not been arrested. Tony McDade, a black trans man, was killed by police officers in Tallahassee, Fla.

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It’s hard to get excited when sports have yet to grapple with their role in amplifying law enforcement, when stadiums and arenas feature endless flyovers and police and military appreciation nights, often ignoring the ways these institutions uphold and protect systematic racism.

This is why when teams and leagues put out uninspired statements (including whatever this was from the Dallas Mavericks) — almost always avoiding the word police — it all feels perfunctory.

The NFL’s statement rings hollow because the league did not engage when Colin Kaepernick brought this issue to its doorstep and instead exiled him from the league for it. Or when the league introduced an idea that perhaps it should bribe teams to incentivize them to hire black coaches.

MLB, always quick to shield and brand itself as the sport of Jackie Robinson, waited more than a week after Floyd’s death and days of mass protests — which led to Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA being used as a jail — before it released a statement. The value of these statements is lost, however, when MLB has done little to actively reverse the steady decline of African Americans in the game or been uninterested in punishing players for old racist, homophobic tweets and broadcasters for racist rants against some of baseball’s brightest young stars. It is easy to attempt to say the right thing and be on the right side of history when such a brutal murder is captured on video, but those words are meaningless when so little effort and action are taken on a daily basis.

It’s hard to be excited for games to come back when so many black athletes are using their voices in other ways right now.

Many have found themselves leading and attending rallies and protests, including Jaylen Brown, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trae Young and Malcom Brogdon, to name a few from the NBA. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson also attended a protest in Houston, and Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics wrote a wonderful piece in The Players Tribune.

With seasons right around the corner, these players won’t have much time to process the trauma they’re currently living through before being thrown back onto the court. And they won’t be alone. This is an experience all too familiar for black people around the country who have to go back to work without processing heavy issues.

It’s difficult to look forward to sports until sports are ready to envision what a new normal could look like. The reality is leagues still did not gain many new answers in the three months since the coronavirus pandemic suspended their seasons.

There was a debate on how many teams the NBA should welcome to its bubble in Orlando, Fla., but very little talk about what the guidelines will be for a positive COVID-19 test — for the player involved, the rest of the team or anyone on the opposing team who came into contact with that player. Or how the league plans to protect so many elderly coaching staff members. Or team staffers and broadcast teams who are not paid as well as superstar athletes but will take on increased risks.

Communities, mostly of color, still are struggling to get proper testing for the coronavirus. Yet each league and team will command large amounts of tests almost daily. There are about two more months before players get back on the court, and perhaps the U.S. will see another major increase in testing. But what are the ethics of using so many resources on a nonessential activity like sports?

Despite it all, the NBA is coming back at the end of July, along with the NHL, which agreed to a proposal for an expanded postseason, and perhaps MLB will follow — if team owners can negotiate in good faith rather than shake down the players association for a pay cut.

But it all seems so trivial at the moment.

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Soon sports will return without answers to the same questions that were being asked weeks ago. And others will use games as a way to distract themselves from a pandemic and the protests against police brutality — and the reality that once again this country has failed to protect its citizens.

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