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
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
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
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.