Athletes are placed on a pedestal in popular society, every action every comment followed with a fever that would put the Kardashian’s to shame. We glorify our athletes as hero’s but often make the mistake of not taking the time to see them as people. People with real problems from mental health to racism to gender inequalities. For a lot of people sports are an escape from everyday life. This becomes a source of contention when athletes use their platform to speak out against the injustices they face in our society. You have reporters with no context or frame of reference as to what they athlete is speaking about telling them to “shut-up and dribble”. Even as recently as this year you have announcers using racial slurs against high school athletes for taking a knee during a basketball game. Many of these athletes spend millions of dollars a year giving back to their communities addressing the issues that we as a society cannot or simply will not try to address.
You have athletes like Colin Kaepernick blackballed from their profession and vilified across the media. When I arrived at the University of Nevada as a naïve and wide-eyed freshman there were images and banners of Kaepernick everywhere. Kaepernick was a Nevada football alumnus and a huge part of one of the most memorable football games in the university’s history (Boise @ Nevada 2010). For all intents and purposes, Kaep was a legend at the University of Nevada. Then he took a knee during the anthem in 2016 and the controversary around him was born. He was not afraid to be outspoken on the discrepancies in policing that minorities especially African Americans face on a daily basis.
The outrage was insane, one of the more polarizing sports moments in the last 10 years in American society. Everybody, and I mean everybody, had an opinion either way. Jerseys were burned endorsements were pulled and Kaepernick was blackballed out of the league to the point the league settled the collusion case brought against them instead of taking it to the public arena. While all of this was going on the craziest thing happened, all of the Kaepernick banners started getting pulled down around campus. His jerseys were no longer sold in the student store and he was essentially disavowed on campus. Nobody dared speak his name, until the BLM protests and the Nike ad of 2018. Then all of a sudden, his social justice work and his message were in vogue again and the university was proud to support an alumnus on such a courageous quest.
We as a society need to make a choice. We cannot revere our athletes in the manner we do and then expect them not to use their platform to do good. We are very quick to tear down an athlete who has made a mistake based on these god-like notions and standards we hold them to. Why are we so quick to tear them down for trying to make a difference in their communities? What about that scream’s journalistic integrity or even basic human empathy? We expect guys to suit up and play after tragedies (Isaiah Thompson) but rake them over the coals when they try to speak out. We as a society need to do better in supporting our athletes as they leverage their platform for a better society. As they speak out against the injustices faced by your fellow Americans and human beings around the world. This week I want you to take the time and listen to this video without bias. Simply listen to the videos and read the articles. Form your own opinion from there.