Over the weekend, Harvard and Yale University proceeded with their yearly rivalry game. It was a beautiful, sunny, day at the Yale Bowl and both teams were putting in hard work. It would seem like an ordinary game as Harvard’s band performed their halftime showcase with Yale proceeding shortly after. Much to the fan’s surprise, the field was suddenly occupied by what appeared to be environmental protestors holding signs that read, “Yale and Harvard students united for climate justice” for all to witness.
Many were confused as to why there were people sitting in the middle of the football field. Security quickly removed the protestors' signs, though that did not stop the protestors, they held a “sit-in”, banding together for their cause. As one could expect, this didn’t go over too well with many of the fans. Many were chanting, “arrest them!” and “Get off the field, we are here to watch a game!”. One parent was heard saying, “This is stupid! They won’t accomplish anything! My son practiced for this game, this isn’t the place.” There was a large number that agreed with this parent's sentiment and I could appreciate their position, however, what would come next was a thing of beauty (in my opinion).
The harder security tried to get the protestor off the field, the more passion struck the fans. What started out as approximately 30-50 protestors quickly became hundreds of allies supporting their cause. Students and Fans, from both schools, were quickly flooding the field in solidarity for their comrades. For about 45 minutes or so, it didn’t matter what colors/school you reped, it was much larger than all of that.
It wasn’t long before local law enforcement was called in. I’ll admit, I was nervous for a few moments considering all the media around police brutality when it came to protests. Much to my surprise, the scene was handled as calmly as possible. As students and allies continued to flood the field for this peaceful protest, the officers began to request that everyone returned to their seats. Over the PA, you could hear the requests for everyone to return to their seats "out of respect for the players". As much as I respect and understand why they wanted everyone off the field, my admiration was more aligned with the resilience of the original protestors. There were several that appeared to be arrested. While we are unsure of what exactly happened to those individuals after the protest, you’ve got to give them points for standing strong, peacefully, for what they believed in…whether you agree with their positions or not.
The sit-in held firm for a good 30 minutes more, though eventually, security was able to clear the field, resuming the game. As news coverage broke about the “Harvard-Yale Protest” several were quick to cast their opinions, and some had questions. There were great questions such as,
“I'm always curious about how protesting, anywhere, does anything other than get in the way. I mean, isn't yelling "THERE IS A PROBLEM" in someone's face really more effective than actively doing something about the actual problem, or even just open discussion? Seems like beating around the bush and throwing a fit rather than addressing the issue. Thoughts? I'm just saying...they're trying to play a ball game. Unless Harvard or Yale are not environmentally friendly, why stop their game? What did they do? "
I will do my best, from my perspective, to answer these, very valid, questions.
There is a very long history and evidence of protests concluding in positive results. To name a couple, The Women's Suffragist Movement and The Civil Rights March. In my experience, I believe there is a time and place for everything, however, that does not always mean it will be convenient to most. Even the most peaceful of protests often result in several arrests…sometimes worse, so why do them?
To understand the “why protests” you must understand the power of visual, positive action. You, also, must understand that long before situations reach the protest stage, there are usually several attempts to civilly address the issue. The problem begins when opposers decide to cover their eyes and ears, refusing to listen to the presented issue. More often than not, humans tune out things they don’t agree with and turn their attention away. This act is precisely why protest exists. Sending pamphlets around about climate change and the injustice happening around it (like in Puerto Rico) don’t really work. Much of the time the informers are ignored and their pamphlets are tossed to the ground. Often, to really have a strong discussion…you must capture the attention of the audience and a wide one at that.
Which brings me to the next point, “Why during a Harvard-Yale game?”
In order to spark change, you need to reach the hearts AND attention of others. Let’s face a cold brutal fact, people do not, often, care about things that do not directly affect them on a personal level. While some might feel sympathetic to a cause, the likelihood of them choosing to become involved would not happen unless it struck an emotional-personal nerve. Those chanting “we are trying to watch a game, arrest them” only cared about their personal investment into the day, not realizing the message that was being showcased involved us all. When people are comfortable, we can be dismissive to the chaos outside of our bubbles, however, bring that chaos into our bubbles and (good or bad) you have the attention.
Harvard and Yale are top tier, highly sought-after Universities. Many joke about schools, like Harvard and Yale, greatest assets are the networks you can/will meet by attending these schools. These two Universities have millions of dollars, if not more, worth of network strolling through their doors. What this means is the likelihood of meeting the type of people who have the funds and ability to assist with positive changes are far greater at these schools (and other IVY’s as well). For the students and allies, the Harvard-Yale game was the perfect location to capture influential attention. You have to admit, whether you agree with their position or not, whether you attend these schools or not…you’ve heard of this protest. Realize that the goal was probably, not to solve an environmental crisis right there on the field, but to say “HEY! We need you to listen, at all costs. We believe this situation is so important that we need you to step out of your bubble and hear us out. “
Sure, the fans may have had to feel discomfort for 45 minutes. Sure, entertainment was disrupted for a few minutes and the game had to be extended, but the reality is no one lost anything! The mission was accomplished on both sides. The protestors showcased strength, solidarity and got the media they needed, and the players went on to complete a hell of a game (DOUBLE overtime!). The reality of the situation is if 45 minutes of a peaceful protest bothered you so much…just imagine how those who still don’t have clean water (Flint, MI) and those who still don’t have electricity (much of Puerto Rico) feel.
Whether you agree or not with the protest, you have to give them credit for using their platforms. In one of the videos, you can hear a person say, "Fuc**** rich kids, Fu** OFF!". What baffles me is if those "rich kids" didn't speak up for change, people would swear they're just brats who don't care about anyone else...yet when they do, like Greta Thunberg, people berate them. You can't have it both ways folks and let's remember, sure, their parents (usually) have money, but many...most...of these kids have busted their butts to continue their education so they can leave positive marks on this world so let's not pretend they're idiots. If you are more upset about an extended game than you are about these crises, perhaps consider stepping outside of your “comfort” bubble and taking a look around. Climate change is a serious issue and we only get one earth. If that doesn’t do it for you, consider this: No Earth = No Entertainment.
One question does come to mind... what would the outcome have been had the players decided to join the protestors?