Athletes and Ferguson: A Larger Picture

If you spent a couple minutes watching the news, you would know about the scary world we live in today. Deep unrest is happening all over the country because of a controversial event that led to the murder of Michael Brown. As a result, people everywhere are speaking out about it including professional athletes.

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Ferguson riots have ravaged the streets.

Protests are happening all over the country about the shooting in Ferguson.  I remember when the university held its own protest on the Diag a couple days ago.  According to this CNN article, On August 9th, 2014, Police Officer Darren Wilson responds to a call that Michael Brown and his friend have shoplifted a store. Upon confronting them, the story starts to twist. Witnesses there claim that Wilson was the aggressor and escalated the situation by drawing his weapon. The personal account of Wilson claims that both Brown and his friend rushed him and he had no choice but to draw his weapon to defend himself. Wilson then claims that Brown tries to grab his gun and consequently fires the weapon, fatally killing him. Witnesses say that there was no struggle and the gun was already drawn on them.

Recently, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch delivered an indictment stating that Officer Darren Wilson was innocent and would not be prosecuted. This was the match that started the fire. People all over the country were wondering, why is an innocent man dead and why is the killer not being charged?

The issue at hand is about the injustice.   This stems from the Attorney Bob McCulloch himself. According to Yahoo News, many in his own community viewed McColloch suspiciously for his strong bias for law enforcement and his unusual prejudice against their accusers.

Fortunately, there are many people speaking out on this issue of injustice. Most surprisingly, some influential speakers are professional athletes.

In the article we read in class, “Where Are the Jocks for Justice” by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreiers, athletes seem to avoid political issues. This statement, “While Hollywood celebrities frequently lend their fame and fortune to candidates and causes, athletes are expected to perform, not pontificate” summarizes the entire argument that is made. Both Candaele and Dreiers list an extensive list of players who have made previous attempts to voice their opinions on a variety of topics like antiwar sentiments, apartheid, segregation, etc. What these players all have in common is that they were unfairly punished for their efforts to change the social stigma with their influence.

Lebron James advocating for peaceful protests.

Lebron James advocating for peaceful protests.

However, the scene is different nowadays and I disagree with the article. Just recently, Lebron James released a statement about the riots in Ferguson, “What does that do? What does that actually do? Just hurt more families, hurt more people, draw more attention to things that shouldn’t even be going on instead of people going to the family’s household and praying with them. And saying, ‘Things are going to be great.’ You know, ‘Mike Brown is in a better place now,’ and ‘Trayvon Martin is in a better place now.’ That’s where it should be. I mean, burning down things and shooting up things and running cars into places and stealing and stuff like that, what does that do? It doesn’t make you happy.”

Makeshift memorial for Michael Brown

Makeshift memorial for Michael Brown

Lebron James is speaking out about Ferguson.

Lebron James is speaking out about Ferguson.

Did he get benched by the head coach with what he said? No. Instead, people have embraced his argument. They have realized violence is not the answer.  They respect and admire what he has to say. Amar’e Stoudemire from the New York Knicks directly addresses the injustice in Ferguson, “We have to be more conscientious of what the law enforcement’s job is, and that’s to protect and serve. Those two words are very strong when you think about that. Your first job is to protect and your second job is to serve. Obviously it’s not happening that way.”

While in 2004 (when the article by Candaele and Dreiers was published) athletes weren’t allowed to “pontificate”, I think nowadays the media and society are more engaged with these professionals. Many times, the media will go out of their way in an interview to ask for the athlete’s opinion on a recent event. I do not think this is wrong. Why shouldn’t we ask for their opinion? Instead, society should allow athletes to express their opinion because they can cause the greatest change.  So many people look up to these individuals and they can easily change public opinion for the greater good.

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