Athletes can play a powerful role in the lives of many. Most are looked up to for what they do on a field or court. However, it's outside those lines that athletes get criticized the most. Athletes have always taken stands and formed their own protests.
The likes of Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, the WNBA as well as many others is not something that is new. There have been athletes in the past that used their large platforms and voices in the hopes of bringing awareness to issues, to ignite change.
James is one of the most polarizing athletes of all time. He is a generational player that doesn’t come around too often. He is an all-time NBA great, whether you place him in the top-10, top-five or even at the very top. For as great as it is to see him dish out highlight reel dimes or throw down thunderous dunks, it is even greater to see what he does off the court.
LeBron is very much socially active and conscious and his voice garners attention, for better or worse. Recently, he has used his platform to voice his displeasures with president Donald Trump and what is going on in the United States right now.
Last weekend, a white supremacist rally took place in Charlottesville, Virginia and it ended badly with injuries and more. James voiced his displeasures with what occurred on Twitter, using Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan as a point of irritation.
It's sad what's going on in Charlottesville. Is this the direction our country is heading? Make America Great Again huh?! He said that♂️
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 12, 2017
Our youth deserves better!! Flat out
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 12, 2017
Trump denounced hatred and bigotry “on many sides” a day after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. On Monday, he came out with a condemnation of “racial violence.” Then on Tuesday, in typical Trump fashion, he backpedaled from his comments, again blaming “many sides” and that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
James yet again took to Twitter after the press conference to voice his displeasures with what the president said.
“Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again! Statues has nothing to do with us now!” He also said that Trump was the “so-called president.”
James, along with fellow NBA superstars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade opened up the 2016 ESPY’s with a call for change in regards to race, police violence and community involvement. James, in 2014, wore a shirt with the words “I can’t breathe” to protest the killing of Eric Garner by a New York City police officer.
Kevin Durant, who is also a polarizing sports figure in his own right, recently spoke out against the president. Last Thursday, he told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that he would not attend the White House if the Golden State Warriors were invited to visit.
“Nah, I won’t do that,” Durant told Haynes. “I don’t respect who’s in office right now.”
He continued to tell Haynes that he believes that the president has played a role in the escalation of racial tension in the United States and the public rise of white supremacists. “He’s definitely driving it. I feel ever since he’s got into office, or since he ran for presidency, our country has been so divided and it’s not a coincidence.,” Durant said.
There is a lot of divide in this country right now and guys like James and Durant, who are two of the most popular athletes in the world, should be applauded for their stance towards racial division. These are two guys many people, especially children, look up to, so they should use their platform for instances like this.
NBA players aren’t the only ones who have either voiced their displeasures or protested the national anthem due to racial divide or police brutality or comments stemming from what the president has said. WNBA players have recently come together and formed their own protest. This is nothing new as the women in this league haven't been scared to step forward to bring awareness to issues they value. Last year, the league had several media blackouts in where they didn't answer any game related questions, only those about the issues they were trying to bring awareness to. The biggest difference this season is that the league has their back versus last season when they were initially fined before being rescinded.
Washington Mystics guard Kristi Toliver arranged a pregame protest that involved both the Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks before their nationally televised game. The protest stemmed from happenings in Charlottesville white supremacist rally and the president’s comments that followed.
She wrote a statement on behalf of both teams.
“On behalf of both the Mystics and Sparks players, we feel pain and disbelief following the blatant hate displayed, and the president’s response to it. There is no way to innocently protest alongside a hate-based group and to take pause on condemning the acts that took place is inexcusable,” Toliver wrote.
The two teams joined before the game and linked arms with one another, something that is normally not allowed according to WNBA protocol, but WNBA president Lisa Borders suspended that.
“We fully support our players, who are offering a demonstration of unity that we hope America can emulate in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville. We offer our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones and our support to those who were injured during the inexcusable violence that transpired,” Borders said.
Toliver’s teammate, Natasha Cloud shared her thoughts on the protest.
“This league, we want to use our voices, we want to use our platform, to send the message that we accept and love every person,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what color you are, what religion you are, what sexual preference you have. Across the board, we’re human. We’re all supposed to be loved and respected,” Cloud said.
The NFL, where a lot of controversy stems from these national anthem protests, mainly from Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem, found new players supporting those who were protesting.
Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks said that white players need to join the protests that seeks to call attention to social injustice. Well, on Friday, before the Seahawks hosted the Minnesota Vikings in a preseason game, Bennett was joined by his teammate, Justin Britt, who is white.
"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are" -Ben Franklin pic.twitter.com/MSRtHDVRBe
— Justin Britt (@JustinBritt68) August 19, 2017
Bennet chose to sit for a second consecutive game, was joined by Britt, who put his arm on Bennett’s left shoulder during the national anthem. Britt had the following to say as to why he chose to support Bennett.
“I want to support him. I want to support what he stands for and his beliefs. I'm not foolish. I'm from Missouri. I get that things are different in that area than they are in some other areas. I'm not against what the flag means and veterans. My dad was in the Army. So I'm not putting any disrespect to them. I'm just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support,” Britt said.
On Monday night, 11 Cleveland Browns knelt in a circle during the playing of the national anthem ahead of the preseason game against the New York Giants. Five players stood beside the circle putting an arm on the shoulders of those kneeling. Of the 11 players who knelt, the first known white player to take a knee, tight end Seth DeVale. He explained why he decided to take a knee.
"The United States is the greatest country in the world," he said. "It is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn't provide equal opportunity to everybody. And I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee," DeVale said.
DeVale has an African-American wife and children who he said will not grow up looking like him.
Linebacker Chris Kirksey organized the kneeling as a way to pray for the country.
These protests aren't done to disgrace the brave men and women who fight for our freedoms or to disrespect this great country. Instead, these protests are done to bring awareness to a serious, ongoing issue that continues to be a problem in this country. When these athletes, whether you agree with how much they get paid or not, use their voices and platforms to bring awareness to important issues, people should listen to them.
These athletes don't mean harm or disrespect, but want to peacefully protest the actions of this country and the statements the president makes in regards to those actions.