Athletes should be vocal about social issues

Veronika Quispe / Contributing Writer

In response to the University of Missouri’s perceived apathy towards racial tensions on its campus, Mizzou’s sophomore defensive back, Anthony Sherrils, tweeted, “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere.’”

Through the use of social media, the Mizzou football team stood in solidarity with the university’s black students by refusing to participate in any “football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience.”

The tweet included a picture of 30 players joined arm in arm and showing solidarity with the hashtag “ConcernedStudent1950.”

Their coach also tweeted his approval of their actions by standing behind them.

It didn’t take long for this picture to spread like wildfire. The Missouri Tigers, ranked fifth in the SEC East, is a well-established team in the world of college football. Consequently, the nation turned their eyes back to Mizzou and acknowledged the adversity they are facing.

A couple of days later, Tim Wolfe resigned. This was the first step towards change for the racial injustices that students of color are enduring while trying to receive an education in the year 2015.

Almost a year ago, a few miles south of the University of Missouri, Rams’ Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin stopped during pregame introductions at Rams stadium to display the “hands-up don’t shoot” gesture. They were sending a message to the people affected by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer that August.

Both teams, professional and collegiate, were sharing their thoughts on events happening right at their home by protesting peacefully.

Social media has become yet another platform where athletes can voice their opinions. This content can be shown to their thousands–sometimes millions–of followers all around the Earth.

Some opt to use this opportunity to not only educate the public on social issues, but to cause inspiration to be good citizens of the planet.

In both situations, many praised these athletes for their support in a time when people needed it the most. They praised them because, in a sense, it gave people the extra push to not give up on their fight for social justice.

However, both situations also received a lot of judgement from sports fans nationwide.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association condemned the Rams organization, as well as the NFL, for these player’s “tasteless” act. This was expected, yet confusing since the SLPOA was urging everyone to protest peacefully. The Rams did just that.

The SLPOA also stated that many of the police officers are avid football fans and suggest the players be punished. After all, “it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do,” according to a released statement.

If one scrolls down the replies of the aforementioned tweet, they would find various perspectives on this situation. When athletes share their opinions on social issues, some people believe that the athletes’ focus should remain within the lines of the field and not off it.

ESPN, “the worldwide leader in sports,” also receives negative backlash every time it posts anything remotely controversial.

The majority of the feedback ranges from “don’t care; show me sports,” to “yeah, this sucks, but ESPN shouldn’t be talking about it” with some profanity sprinkled throughout.

Yes, it’s quite absurd to even imagine someone thinking athletes don’t have a say in the world they live in. Most athletes aren’t the average boneheaded “high-school jock.” Many athletes graduate from prestigious universities.

Therefore, people imply that the only importance athletes hold are their physical capabilities. Are the people making these comments objectifying these male athletes?

This is not the first or last time celebrated athletes, not just football players, have taken a public stand on all social injustice topics.

This shines a bright light on what athletes are capable of. It also shines a light on athletes’ leadership and potential to impact to young sports fans who aspire to be them some day, as not all athletes behave in a positive manner.

The trolls sitting behind screens, who pound their fingers senseless explaining why ESPN and athletes alike should shut up on their opinions of the world they all share, should take a step back and observe the new generation coming forward.

This is the generation that still has a fresh chance to have a positive impact on the world. They have the chance to–at the very least–change it for the better somehow.

Fans should feel the same amount of pride when athletes break their silence on racism and injustice as they do when athletes score a touchdown hit a game-winning three-pointer.


1 Comment on "Athletes should be vocal about social issues"

  1. It’s somewhat ironic that Stedman Bailey was shot in the head 2 days after this article was posted. No word yet on if he had his hands up.

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