One thing that has become clear in the sports world in 2016 is that Black athletes in today’s era are becoming more outspoken about the injustices that occur regularly within our country.
Carmelo Anthony, Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade are just a select few out of the pool of athletes that have outwardly spoken against issues within the criminal justice system.
I believe that it is crucial for athletes to speak up against the issues within our country because of two reasons: it shows how humane they are, and its gives opportunities for the average citizen’s voice to be heard.
Throughout history, black people have always been viewed as property and entertainment value. In the film “Ethnic Notions,” (1987) we learn how during slavery Blacks were used for entertainment. Whites would dress up as derogatory black figures and mock them during live performances. For some whites, this was their main source of income. Entertainment based on the debasement of black people was a vital part of their economic system.
Eventually, Blacks fought back and rebelled, which contributed to different social movements like the Nat Turner revolt and the Civil Rights Movement. Those movements did not just create social awareness, but contributed to causing affective change.
This is no different to what the athletes are currently doing today. Entertainment is still a huge part of our economic system, and Blacks dominate that industry from a players’ aspect. Their form of fighting the social norm is using their status as a platform to attempt in creating change for the common good.
According to a 2013 study conducted by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), located at the University of Central Florida’s College of Business and Administration, 76.3 percent of the NBA players and 66.3 percent of the NFL players are Black. Not to mention that out of all 153 professional teams within the six professional sports, there is only one owner: Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Hornets.
Kaepernick answered his calling, stepped up to the plate and protested against the national anthem. Now many professional athletes are supporting the movement, such as Kaepernick’s teammate Eric Reid and women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe. The movement even trickled down to the younger generation. Teams like Howard University’s cheerleading team, the Garfield High School football team in Seattle and select football players from Laguna Creek in Sacramento have taken the lead of professional protest figures..
It can’t be forgotten, either, the sacrifices of athletes of previous generations, like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who had to more or less stand completely alone and suffered because of that. Kaepernick is better able to roll through the backlash he’s faced this year in part because of a response to past unfair treatment to the likes of the formally named Chris Jackson who played in an NBA that still struggles with public perception of its rules against anthem protest.
This is why athlete activism is so important. Through their actions these athletes demonstrate a level of frankness in their expression that we can all be familiar with, through their familiarity on our TV sets and all our media streams they also have the ability to define an issue for the masses, which is one of the most vital components to a successful movement.
The more professional Black athletes speak out against the inequalities throughout our land, the greater chance the movement will expand and essentially not just open more pathways for the average citizen to effectively protest and garner support, but also force the government and other invested stakeholders to give us a chance to speak and hear our voices, which should be represented by all classes.
In the name of the cause of equality and justice for all, this should be known by professional athletes, especially in the Black community: continue to lead by using your platform to protest. You’re affecting more change than you know.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042