By Philippe De Jesus and Angel Flores Staff Writers
During the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two American black runners, gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, raised their black-gloved fists in the air while the “Star Spangled Banner” was being played. The crowd was booing and the two men were ordered to leave the stadium for the act.
For the past few months, athletes have been told to “stick to sports.” The phrase comes from online criticism directed at anyone in the world of sports who takes a political stance that doesn’t happen on a field, court, locker room, or front office.
Many athletes are scared of speaking their minds because of the risk that they’ll get fired and President Donald Trump isn’t helping with the situation. He tries to use his position to his advantage to try to intimidate the players into silence.
For example, on Sept. 23, 2017, President Trump exclaimed on Twitter, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!”
We believe that athletes should be able to share their opinions with the world without the backlash. We feel that the hate that comes with these players protests stem from systematic racism. These players are human and should be able to express their voice in society.
Usually people watch sports in order to escape from the struggles of reality, including politics. CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan said. “I think because Trump is so controversial and because the things he’s saying and doing run counter to what many people believe … athletes are finding their voice in a way that is reminiscent of the 1960s.”
Some of the most prominent activists for racial equality and advocates for other forms of social justice have also emerged from sports. Some examples are Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line, Muhammad Ali supported equality, and when Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Curt Flood openly talked about civil rights.
Today, in the age of social media, the platform that athletes have is a large one. We think that is it an athlete’s responsibility, as a member of society to not only use that platform promote themselves but to also help their communities and use the attention they generate for a greater purpose.
In 2014, NBA player, Derrick Rose, wore a t-shirt that read, “I Can’t Breathe,” which were the words repeated by Eric Garner as he was choked to death by a police officer. Soon after, more NBA players such as Lebron James and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers wore the same shirt.
James said to reporters, “It’s just to understand what we’re going through as a society. I’ve been quoted over and over as far as what’s going on, it’s more of a notion to the family. More than anything. As a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another, don’t matter what race you are.” I think that Lebron’s statement is inspiring many people in our communities to protest against inequality.
Even activism in sports received strong negative responses. When Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt that read, “Justice for Tamir Rice And John Crawford III” before a game in December 2014 to protest the deaths of two unarmed black people, the president of the union, Jeff Follmer, that represents Cleveland police was angry.
Follmer said, “It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.” I personally think that the Browns organization shouldn’t apologize because these athletes’ opinions matter and they were just trying to stand up for what’s right.
Since 2016, When Colin Kaepernick originally took a knee during the National Anthem, he wanted to shed the light on issues of importance such as police brutality. To me, I respect a player like Kaepernick for his quiet protest that causes discussions about race relations in America which is much needed.
On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling was murdered by police in Baton Rouge, LA but The Department of Justice decided not to bring charges against the officers. A day later, Philando Castile was shot by police in suburban St. Paul.
Some athletes wanted more activism, and NBA player, Carmelo Anthony, had seen enough. Anthony urged people to do more than just march in rallies or post on social media and I agree with him because if we want to create change, taking more action than just posting on social media trying to spread awareness is better.
On July 8, 2016, Anthony wrote an Instagram post that read, “I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblyman/assemblywoman and demand change. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to.”
On July 9, 2016, players from the Minnesota Lynx WNBA team wore black shirts that read, “Black Lives Matter.” Maya Moore, one of the team captains stated, “Tonight we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the losses of precious American citizens and to plead for change in all of us.” Moore wanted to speak out against racial profiling that many activists said led to the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
We think that the movement, “Black Lives Matter” is important in our society because it gives people of color a chance to be heard. Also it raises awareness about racial profiling and the deaths of innocent black lives.
Ever since Donald Trump has been elected into office, there have been many heated debates over race and social issues. Many athletes are becoming more politically active, and President Trump has also got backlash from other professional athletes. On Sept. 23, 2017, Trump told Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, that he has canceled an invitation for them to come to the White House, even though Curry had announced back in June that he didn’t want to go. In response to Trump, Lebron James called him a bum and said, “Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
We thought Curry made the right decision for not wanting to go to the White House. It was his choice to go or not and his teammates still backed him up.
Since athletes are so popular and have a lot of money, they can promote positive social changes and justice. We would encourage athletes to kneel during the National Anthem if it means protesting, because they are standing up for what they believe in.