James Blake

‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ primetime special covers social justice, combating inequality

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Athletes, including Olympians, discussed social justice, locker room conversations about race and ways that sports can help combat inequality in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Regional Networks.

NBC Sports’ Damon Hack hosted roundtables with active and retired athletes at the American Century Championship Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last week.

Panelists, including Olympians James Blake and Charles Barkley and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Stephen Curry, also reflected on personal experiences.

Barkley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996, said coaches recently reached out to him to speak to their teams.

“First of all, relax and breathe,” Barkley said. “This crap started 400 years ago. We can’t do nothing about that. We can’t do anything about systematic racism. What I challenge every Black person, every white person to do: What can I do today going forward?

“You have to ask yourself, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Blake, a retired former top-five tennis player and 2008 Olympian, was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity caught on video. The police officer’s punishment was a loss of five vacation days.

“The first thing I said when I got tackled was, I’m complying 100 percent,” Blake said. “And that shouldn’t have to be your response the first time you interact with a police officer. And because that’s the way my dad taught me is stay alive. Do whatever you can to stay alive. Sort it out later with lawyers or however you want to do it, and stay alive in that moment. The fact you have to have those rules in 2020 means maybe we have to do something drastic to change the way police interact with the African-American community and the way the community interacts with the police.”

Curry said his daughters, 7-year-old Riley and 5-year-old Ryan, asked questions about the images they recently saw. He’s not shielding them, but rather being honest about society, going back centuries.

“We have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those type of things,” Curry said. “And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change. I’m hopeful and optimistic about, but I understand how much work will need to go into that.”

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Additionally, Hack was joined by Super Bowl champion running back Jerome Bettis for an extended interview that will be published on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms.

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Alicia Keys, Ethan Hawke, Olympians among New York City Marathon finishers

Alicia Keys
AP
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Some of the more than 50,000 starters in Sunday’s New York City Marathon included a few names who were recognizable to people who have never followed a 26.2-mile race.

Start with the Olympians. Most years, non-track and field Olympians line up for the five-borough race.

This year’s edition included three-time Olympic Alpine snowboarder Chris Klug, famous for overcoming a liver transplant to win bronze in 2002.

Klug, 42, clocked 4 hours, 13 minutes, 51 seconds, or about five minutes slower than 2002 Olympic teammate snowboarder Tricia Byrnes in 2011.

James Blake, a retired Beijing 2008 semifinalist, became the second prominent tennis player to complete the race in as many years, finishing in 3:51:19 and receiving a milkshake from Olympic mixed doubles gold medalist Victoria Azarenka.

In 2014, two-time Olympian Caroline Wozniacki ran it in 3:26:33, training while competing on the WTA Tour and spending the night before the race eating popcorn next to Serena Williams at a New York Rangers hockey game.

Other celebrity finishers from Sunday:

Alicia Keys, singer — 5:50:52
Ethan Hawke, actor — 4:25:30
Tiki Barber, retired NFL running back — 4:50:56 (after a 5:14:37 in 2014)
Nev Schulman, MTV host — 3:34:31

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