Whether they like it or not, professional athletes are role models. Since they’re in public eye, they should make good use of it. For many fans, these athletes are heroes. With so many issues facing the nation, athletes can be the catalyst in promoting change or sounding the call for justice. It's good to be woke.
When people browse the Internet for news, what do they see? A never-ending stream of violence, indifferent politicians, and racism. People don’t need sports to fuel the fire and compound a headache. They need sports to escape from the issues tearing this country apart.
Hey #NFL and #NBA, America is sick of your shit too. Keep mouths shut about politics. We don't care what you think. We pay your salaries.
Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a stir by kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. His protest garnered national attention, drawing both admiration and criticism. A lot has been said about Kaepernick, but no matter how you feel about him, he got the conversation started. Sports pundits and people have been talking about social justice and equality since his fateful protest.
LeBron James' Los Angeles home was vandalized with a racial slur a day before the 2017 NBA Finals began. Instead of staying silent, he took the time to address the racial issues African-Americans continue to face in the country. His willingness to speak out keeps the racial injustice in the national spotlight and provides more opportunities for improvement.
For those who think sportsmen and sportswomen standing up for what is right is a new phenomenon, politically active athletes have been fighting against injustice for decades.
African American athletes like Mohammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jim Brown were outspoken in their support for the black community during the Civil Rights moment and beyond. They were beloved by people of all colors. They became a bridge for many people toward understanding the plight of African Americans.
Children look up to athletes and emulate their every move. Do people really want their heroes to be ignorant of the world? Athletes are often the spark that engages kids. Professional athletes can not only entertain, but they can help children understand the world—assist kids in coming together as a community.
It would be a waste to have athletes act solely as sports heroes when they can be so much more.
People love to talk about Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest as the current example of athlete activism gone right. What went right about it? People may have talked about it for a couple months, but the conversation shifted to the kneeling itself and not what the kneeling represented. The protest became bigger than what was actually being protested.
Also, Kaepernick’s protest may have resulted in the former quarterback's unemployment in the NFL. Not only did he lose his job, he lost his platform as well. Why take the risk, and take food out of your mouth for the sake of politics?
Not only can athletes lose their jobs for venturing outside of sports, they can cause more harm than good. With all eyes on Kaepernick, the quarterback proudly wore a t-shirt with Fidel Castro during the season.
Not even the densest person could move past the irony of someone fighting oppression by wearing a shirt featuring Castro. Promoting Castro, who was a tyrant of the highest order, brought back bad memories to Cuban immigrants, and may convince others that Castro wasn’t all that bad (Spoiler alert: He was).
Athletes do have a responsibility to fans—to help them cope with a crappy world. That’s why we love sports heroes. It isn’t because they make us more socially conscious, but because they perform feats that amaze us, and distract from the horrible things going on in the world. Their otherworldly talent unites and inspires people.
Let the real activists advocate for change. Athletes should just stick to sports.