Professional sports serve as platform for activism

Athletes use workplace to address issues and personal beliefs

In a country where professional sports overshadow a lot of other industries, professional athletes have used their upper class, high profile status as a platform to call attention to their personal stance on issues.

Over the last few years, with the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the Black Lives Matter Movement has become bigger than ever.

Today, our professional athletes have used their status to address these tragic moments and fight for social justice.

During the 2014 NFL season, members of the St. Louis Rams football team walked out of the tunnel before the game with their hands raised in the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture that protestors were using after the death of Michael Brown. The NFL later stood behind the Rams as the St. Louis Police Department demanded they apologize.

After the death of Eric Garner, also in 2014, NBA player and professional sports icon, LeBron James, wore a shirt during his pregame warm up reading “I can’t breathe,” along with other players in the NBA. “I can’t breathe” were Eric Garner’s last words before he died following a confrontation with New York Police Department officers, which was caught on tape and sparked national outrage.

In a USA Today interview about the message behind the shirt, LeBron James said we must stand behind one another in our society and essentially have each others backs.

“I don’t know. It’s not for us to figure out. It’s just for us to understand what we’re going through as a society. I’ve been forwarded over and over about what’s been going on. This is more of a notion to the family more than anything,” said James. “As a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another no matter what race you are. But it’s more of a shoutout to the family more than anything because they’re the ones who should be getting the energy and effort.”

LeBron James also joined other NBA superstars, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade at this past years ESPY awards to try and start a movement to embrace political activism and speak out about racial injustices.

The four athletes stood at the front of the stage with many fellow athletes, sports fans and celebrities in attendance, to plead for change and new voices in the debate over police brutality.

At the ESPY’s, Carmelo Anthony, a guard for the New York Knicks said that the judicial system was broken and change needed to be made.

“The problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide definitely is not new. But the urgency to create change is at an all-time high,” said Anthony.

Even more recently, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has refused to stand during the National Anthem since the NFL’s preseason started over two months ago. As a protest for social injustice, he has sparked both outrage and respect from American citizens. In another USA Today interview, Kaepernick said that he will continue to kneel or sit for the anthem if things don’t change.

“I’ll continue to stand with the people who are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change—and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to—I’ll stand,” said Kaepernick. “This country stands for liberty, freedom and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

Professional sports in our country have long been an arena for political protests by athletes. They are given a public platform where they are looked up to. Due to their occupation, which they get paid millions of dollars for every season, they are required to perform on national television, and in front of sold out crowds in arenas or stadiums across the country.

The world of professional sports is a multibillion dollar industry, and it holds a lot of weight and power within our country. The real power comes from the athletes who are actually bringing the money in.

That is the power to make change in America for whatever they are supporting, whether that be black lives, gay rights or religion, they can get the point across.

These professional athletes have an outstanding following behind them, and they are talked about every day. They are constantly under a microscope for their actions, and whatever they do will be announced and brought to the attention of millions. That is why they support these protests.

With their higher-class standing in America, they have the ability to get away with almost anything they want. So why not stand for political activism and try and make change on issues that need to be addressed and taken care of? Why not use their platform to their advantage?

These professional athletes aren’t stupid. They do these things for a reason. They know that whatever they say, however they act or play and what they wear will be the topic of discussion around the country if they make a big enough statement. So why not make a statement for something you strongly believe in?

I support these athletes and their fight for what they have faith in. The last thing they are going to do is remain silent. If enough of them get their point across, then change will have to be made.

As long as there are issues in America, there will be professional athletes pleading their case and advocating for change, for however long it takes for that change to happen.

As far as I’m concerned, the world of sports is never going to disappear, so I expect activism from professional athletes for quite some time.