Athletes Become Activists

Athletes+Become+Activists

Benjamin Fajardo, Sports Editor

In 2018, Fox News’s Laura Ingraham infamously told Lebron James and other athletes to stay out of politics and “shut up and dribble”.

Today, these same athletes have become leaders in the one of the most powerful movements in American history: the Black Lives Matter movement.

It wasn’t always as acceptable for athletes to voice their political opinions as it is now.

In 1967, Muhammad Ali, a lifelong activist and considered by many as the greatest boxer of all time, refused to be drafted to the Vietnam war. As a converted muslim, Ali was opposed to all wars. He stood up for his beliefs and was punished for it. He was stripped of his heavyweight title, banned from boxing during the prime of his career, fined 10,000 dollars, and sentenced to five years in prison.

More recently, Colin Kaepernick took a stand against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem as an act of protest in 2016. Kaepernick hasn’t played since the conclusion of that football season, and many believe he is being blackballed by the NFL.

Many athletes today have begun to follow in the footsteps of activists such as Ali and Kaepernick.

Athletes hold tremendous power because of their influence on social media. And after the recent horrible examples of police brutality in our nation, many have used this opportunity to become leaders and spread mass awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Entire player unions like the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) and WNBPA (Women’s Basketball Players Association) have worked alongside their sports leagues, NBA and WNBA respectively, to spread awareness to both Black Lives Matter and the importance of voting. Both the WNBA and NBA displayed “Black Lives Matter” in the center of their courts during the conclusion of their seasons in the bubble and encouraged their players to be involved in the peaceful protests that were organized all over the nation.

They also allowed the players to put personalized messages such as “Equality” and “Peace” on the back of their jerseys, replacing their last names.

Our country is currently very divided. Athletes today have the ability to reach so many different people with their massive followings on social media. Many have capitalized on this unique opportunity to spread awareness and information to new audiences who might not be aware of social issues in society, such as the institutionalized racism present in America.

With thousands of athletes now using their voices to bring awareness to social movements and promote education and voting, there is hope that we can rally together and work as a team.