Who can speak up

It was a hot summer day in NYC; as I sat down to enjoy the new Hercules movie in the brand new 86th street theatre.  Twenty minutes into the movie my phone would not stop buzzing.  At once the whole theater seemed to be staring at me with a look of disdain.  I ran out of the theatre while my phone was blowing up from all of the twitter notifications.

A black man, Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer named Darren Wilson. My twitter feed was out of control

Signs made by people after the death of Michael Brown

Signs made by people after the death of Michael Brown

with posts about his death.  Everything from RIP to “The Wade family hearts and prayers go out to the Brown family. #RIPMikeBrown”.  

In the article Where Are the Jocks for Justice?, by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier, the authors state how athletes are often scrutinized for speaking up about political issues.  In the article, Candaele and Dreier mention how many athletes visit hospitals or do other charity work, but rarely speak up about more extreme issues because they are “expect[ed] to perform not pontificate”. The article also states that many athletes do not voice their opinions because “it is not our role to go around taking positions on things for the sake of taking positions.” (Donald Fehr, Head of MLBPA) 

In lecture this week, we also discussed the state of advocacy in todays professional athletics. We learned of Olympic athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who, in the summer of 1968, decided to raise their fists during the national anthem in an act of solidarity for the black power movement. This moment was considered to be one of the defining moments in the history of political activism in sports.  However, Where Are the Jocks for Justice? argued that modern day athletes lack the same feeling of individualism held by athletes in the past like Carlos and Smith.

I disagree with Candaele and Dreier view that most athletes nowadays do not speak up when major political events occur.  If we look at the one of the most recent political controversies, the death of Michael Brown, we see an outpour of tweets and

 Johnson Bademosi #24 of the Cleveland Browns displays a message protesting the death of Eric Gardner

Johnson Bademosi #24 of the Cleveland Browns displays a message protesting the death of Eric Gardner

posts from athletes.  After Brown was not indicted Serena Williams tweeted, “Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???”  and Kobe Bryant tweeted, “The system enables young black men to be killed behind the mask of law #Ferguson #tippingpoint #change”.  Social media has given people the ability to voice their opinions to the entire world in a matter of seconds; and athletes have taken full advantage of this.  Not only have athletes been voicing their opinions on social media, they have also been doing it with what they wear.   After the death of Eric Garner, in a video of the arrest, Garner can be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.”  Many athletes like Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi, wore warm up shirts with the words “I can’t breathe” on them, while others such as Davin Joseph, a guard for the St. Louis Rams, wrote the words “R.I.P. Eric Garner” on his cleats.  And after the death of the Late Trayvon Martin, Lebron James tweeted a picture of the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin.  Athletes are glorified and

Lebron James and the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin

Lebron James and the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin

looked up to as heroes for many people; and because spectators put them on a pedestal they need to be given the right to voice their opinions.

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6 comments

  1. noahblum · December 8, 2014

    Like you, I agree that athletes of this age do have the political activism that John Carlos and Tommie Smith did in those 1968 games, whether it is wearing hoods for Trayvon Martin, going onto the field with their hands up for Michael Brown, or writing “I can’t breathe” on their shirts for Eric Garner. What’s more interesting is whether athletes should take stances on issues such as these and publicly display their opinions as discussed in the article “Where Are the Jocks for Justice?”. I agree that athletes should stances on issues such as these. As public figures I think that it is their duty to show what they stand for.

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  2. dinaakhmetshina · December 8, 2014

    I completely agree with your perspective in this article! I also found fault with the article by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier, because I’ve seen so many displays of political opinions by athletes. Your article does a great job of highlighting the statements made my many high-profile, famous athletes in regards to the highly controversial cases such as Eric Garner and Ferguson.

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  3. jackozicz · December 8, 2014

    I think that social media has really allowed athletes to voice their opinions more. I think you’re right in thinking that a lot of players speak out against issues in our world today, but the authors were also correct in saying that the media hates it when athletes do it. When Richard Sherman got up and talked with ‘Doug Baldwin’ he was criticized pretty heavily. When the St. Louis Rams players all decided to put their hands up a lot of people were upset. I think that athletes should have a voice and should speak up, but right now when athletes do the media says that they should just focus on playing, rather than speaking.

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  4. mcarozza · December 9, 2014

    I agree with you on the power athletes have to take stand and voice their political views. They should take advantage of their position in society and try to better society. However, I wonder if the examples that you brought up in this blogpost will really lead to any change… these are nice gestures, but should athletes be doing more to implement change?

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  5. aricerq · December 9, 2014

    I think you are completely right with disagreeing with the article when it says that athletes can’t take a stand and voice their opinions on politics or whatever the issue may be. In the article it states that celebrities, on the other hand, can and often do. Maybe the recent rise of athletes in fame, they are more than just athletes now they are legitimate celebrities, has something to do with their political involvement. And to answer the comment left above mine, I think that athletes are doing the best they realistically can. They are bringing awareness to these issues and their role model status will influence people to take a stand too.

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  6. johnoett · December 9, 2014

    I think that you are correct in identifying some recent examples of political activism by athletes, but maybe Candaele and Dreier are talking about doing something more than simply posting a tweet. While it is nice to see athletes voicing their opinions, using social media to do so is not the best way to ensure that change is actual implemented. None of these athletes are starting campaigns or encouraging serious political action, and that is the problem Candaele and Dreier are trying to address. Maybe these tweets are stepping stones to something more serious, but I’m not really sure. Right now, it seems like they could still be using their wealth, power, and influence to do more.

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