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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Whats fair?

(This post is a response to the blog “I am man, I am better” by leah10302018 http://politicaltheory005.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/i-am-man-i-am-better/)

As a kid growing up my father, whose parents were holocaust survivors, always told me “life’s not fair”.  Whenever my older brother got a cooler toy and I would start complaining I always heard that same dreaded line, “Josh, life’s not fair”.

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Modest crowd at the Crisler Center for a women’s basketball game.

I was not surprised as I walked into the Crisler Center on a dreary Ann Arbor night to a modest crowd.  It was the second Women’s home game of the season against Detroit.   It was an average game and Michigan squeaked out a 76-57 victory. Women’s basketball does not usually get much attention and does not have the same following as men’s sports; which was exhibited by the half empty Crisler Center crowd.

This past winter while visiting the university, I attended a Purdue, Michigan Men’s basketball game at the Crisler Center.  The line was outrageously long.  However, even while waiting in line outside the stadium, you could feel the electricity in the air. The men’s sports especially basketball and football brings in millions of dollars in revenue, with the football team alone earning $82 million in the 2012- 2013 season.  Is it fair that more time and money is spent on the more popular men’s sports?  Is it fair that more people would rather attend men’s sporting events than women’s?

The author of the article “I am man, I am Better” believes that no, this is not fair.  She argues that because the women’s team is very “talented” that they should have a “following”.  She says “why is it that they aren’t talented enough to have a following. This is an issue of gender norms, why is it that men get support for athletics and women don’t. My professor says in Being a Woman and Other Disabilities when referring to a women’s basketball game “you don’t see any spectators.”  She argues that this is an issue of Gender norms.  However, I believe that women do not have as much of a “following” because people are not nearly as interested in women’s sports as they are in men’s sports.  People want to watch the best players play at the highest level.  They do not want to watch a second tier event.  No one goes to a sporting event to see the benchwarmers play the whole game while the star sits on the bench.  Men’s sports are played at a higher level and this is the sole reason for spectators being present at men’s sports.

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The world is run by money

Professor Mika also argues in his book, “throwing like a girl that “although Title IX changed things significantly…no women’s sport is what universities call a “revenue sport… [and] has been a slow and bumpy
road to more inclusion”.  And in “I am man, I am Better” the author argues “Women’s tickets aren’t nearly as expensive as men’s are.”   This is because the world is run by money and these facts shows that people are willing to spend money and take time out of their day to go to events that they want to go to.  I believe that this is not gender inequality or “unfair treatment” rather it is just showing that people are willing to spend more on men’s events and the University is willing to make money off of that fact.  At the end of the day people are going to what they want to do and a sport such as women’s basketball cannot be forced into earning revenue and prices cannot be made the same just to make things equal. That is not how life works.

In “I am man, I am Better”, the author also states “Women are working just as hard as men to get half of the achievements, half of the support and half of pay. That’s where the problem is, having fans is an issue but not as big of an issue as not being equally paid for the same amount of work that come with the same risks. With the minimum salary in the WNBA being approximately 30,000 dollars a year how exactly are women supposed to make a sustainable living doing the same exact thing men are.”  People are paid on how much demand there is for what they are doing.  For example, there is very low demand for an unskilled profession like working as a cashier in McDonalds, therefore there pay is very low.  However, an oncologist has to go through years of school and there is a lot of demand for that job therefore he has a high salary.  It does not have anything to do with how hard someone works.  The McDonald’s worker could be working incredibly hard yet he’d still be making that same low salary. The world is not an equal place.  And as my wise father says “life’s not fair.”

The Demise of the NFL

As each NFL season passes by, the league tries inching closer and closer to becoming a safer sport. More and more attention gets put on the increasing physical risks, with concussions being at the forefront of the issue.  Many players have died from injuries related to their heads, including the twelve time pro bowler Junior Seau who committed suicide a couple of years ago.  The NFL has been sued and has had to settle in court with retired players for millions of dollars .  To make the game safer, new rules have been implemented and some have even claimed that new helmets will help quell the problem. But is it really enough to keep players safe from this brutal game?

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NFL Player Wes Welker, after a hard hit. He was later diagnosed with one of his many concussions.

People love the game because of its violence.  There is a reason why people say its a modern gladiator game.  “A Washington Post survey of retired NFL players found that nearly nine in 10 report suffering from aches and pains on a daily basis, and they overwhelmingly – 91 percent – connect nearly all their pains to football.”  And in “2012, 261 players were diagnosed with concussions during preseason and regular-season practices and games combined“.  Also the expectations of players have been for them to be manly enough to stay on the field after absorbing a blow to the head. In response, the NFL has tried to protect players by creating new rules such as preventing “defenseless” players from taking shots to quarterbacks above their shoulders and by putting in new precautions such as concussion tests on the sideline.

 

In “NFL Rules Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football”, the author Marc Tracy argues that the NFL keeps on trying to change and is it does, it is drifting away from the game he once loved.  One point he harps on is that he would rather have the NFL be a violent league with hard hits than become a safer game.  His main reason is because football is his entertainment and he doesn’t want “football-free Sunday afternoons.”

 

I disagree with Tracy, and believe that it is morally appalling to let fans stand idly by and watch their favorite players destroy their bodies.  Is it right that retired players “can’t walk for any extended distance[s]” or “hurt like hell every morning when [they] wake up” for our entertainment?

I also believe that the NFL needs to decide where they stand on this issue and take a hard stance, rather than tiptoeing in between.  People dislike seeing sports completely changed but they also don’t like seeing players die on the field.   The game is in a terrible position now because the game has already changed from what it used to be and while there are still tons of concussions occuring.

 

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Boxing and football two of the most brutal sports

The NFL is heading towards a path of modifying the game and I believe that they will continue down that path until Football loses its popularity.  This could be similar to what happened in boxing.  As Boxing, once one of the most popular sports in the world, has lost all of its following and has fallen off the map for sports fans.  One major reason is that people started realizing how brutal boxing was which led to its downfall.   Similarly,  football will start to lose its appeal after fans realize how brutal a sport it really is.  This has actually started happening as Pop Warner, the largest youth football program in the country, has seen its participation drop 9.5% between 2010- 2012  .  Adding on to its lose of popularity the NFL will also have completely changed the game by this point, making many rule changes to create a safer game .  Who knows for sure but maybe when I’m a father Sunday afternoons will be for watching basketball games.

Planned Success?

On a frigid fall night in New York, as I stood in front of the basketball hoop on my driveway, my mind was spinning.  It was 2 AM before my first day of classes as a high schooler, but more importantly it was the night before the tryouts for the JV basketball team. The prior season I rode the bench and was doing everything in my control during the offseason to perfect my game.

 

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What I looked like before high school

I was never the greatest athlete nor was I born with the greatest talent, but coming into high school everyone started fresh in the eyes of the new coach.  Hobbes’s manifested the theory that all men were created equal.  Everyone starts at a similar point whether it be sports, school, or acting and have the ability to control their own destiny.

One the biggest inspirations in my life is Tom Brady.  Everyone knows of tom Brady as the nine time all star and three time super bowl champion, however this was not always the case.  He was never the most talented quarterback and did not have a prototypical body and arm that scouts looked for in quarterbacks.  He was even forced to split time with quarterback Drew Henson, during his senior season at Michigan.  Brady ended up being picked with the 199th pick in the sixth round, with six quarterbacks being selected before him.  He can be seen crying during an interview, because of how upset he was about being pick so late in the draft.

 

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Tom Brady looking scrawny and weak at the NFL Combine 

However, Brady shut up his critics and took advantage of his fresh start in the NFL.  Brady spent countless hours at the gym, and outworked everyone.  Similar to Brady’s success, I ended up being a three year starter on my varsity basketball team, overcoming my deficiencies.

 

In this instance Brady showed that there is an element of control in how successful one becomes.  This was also evident from what I achieved on my high school team.

But does everyone have control over whether they succeed? Does everyone get the job they want?  Can the strength of the weak really take out the strength of the strong?  Do we really believe no is subordinate to anyone else?

 

I did end up starting on my varsity team because I worked head and shoulders more than anyone else.  However, the star of the team rarely put in hours at the gym, quarreled with the coaches, and skipped mandatory workouts because of his natural talent.  Is it really in our control to decide where we end up?  I would have loved to go to the NBA, was it realistic or even a possibility? Heck no!


Nonetheless, I believe that Hobbes is stating that everyone cannot be completely equal in the long run and people don’t have complete control over whether they succeed or not rather it is up to them to make the most out of their given opportunities.  Hobbes also states that “strength of the weak really take out the strength of the strong” which I believe means that generally the weak may not be able to take down the strong, but on any given night anything could happen.  And Herb Brooks, the USA Hockey coach from the Miracle movie, perfectly sums it up by preaching that “One game. If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight.”  

ISIS vs. Athenians

During a typical Ann Arbor fall morning, I sat in my bed under my cozy down comforter.    Scrolling through yahoo, I couldn’t help but notice what looked like a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling next to a man carrying a knife in an all black suit. The suits you only see in your nightmares.   As my hand unconsciously clicked on the article my heart started pounding and my hands started to get clammy.  As I pressed play on the video, James Foley started reading a script created by ISIS.  The terrorist with his eerily chilling english accent started threatening presidents and Prime Ministers from the most powerful countries in the world.  Sitting in my bed thousands of miles away, I was panic-stricken.

I could not ponder how President Obama, the most powerful man in the world could stand idly by and watch.  That could have been any American citizen.  Heck, that could’ve been anyone from a western country.  How he could let an American citizen be decapitated in front of the whole world,  force a mother to watch her son get brutally murdered at the hands of psychotic terrorists.  Why couldn’t he just negotiate the price to bring Foley back home or release a prisoner in exchange.

Imagine the feelings Foley’s family went through.  Waiting, helplessly with the power in the hands of terrorists.  Hoping, praying that somehow their son could make it home safe.

As time went on I realized that America has a certain set of beliefs.  One of these is that they will take the high moral route.  And the moral route in this case is not negotiating with terrorists.  As hard as it is for every American to watch terrorists murder one of their own, that is how it needs to be.  America needs to stick with their beliefs and stand strong.  America was faced with an incredibly difficult question, try and bring home Foley or stay strong and not negotiate with terrorists.  Similarly, the Melos were faced with an identical problem as the U.S government.  They could either fight against the all powerful Athenians, the just route or live as slaves, giving in to the demands of evil.  Ultimately the Melians did not give in to the Athenians and fought for what they believed was right.   Even though every man was slain, they stood firm in their beliefs and chose to die fighting against injustice.

Just like the Athenians the U.S.A will have to suffer consequences of taking the higher moral route, but should stand firm in the wake of terrorism, just as the Melians did.

The U.S flag representing freedom and high moral route