It’s time for athlete activism whether we like it or not

It%27s+time+for+athlete+activism+whether+we+like+it+or+not

Peter Dewey

In a time where there are issues that are dividing our country, who do we turn to?

Those with influence.

Those with power.

Those with a platform to get their message out.

People such as the President, leaders in government, actors, writers and our athletes.

This weekend, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, had some choice words for those athletes who speak up for their beliefs.

Not only did he refer to Colin Kaepernick as a “son of a b****” for not standing during the national anthem, but he went on Twitter to attack Stephen Curry’s desire to not visit the White House.

Personally, I don’t like to get political. But, when the President is condoning and calling for the punishment of those who use their fundamental right of Freedom of Speech, it becomes more than a political debate.

Trump’s comments have warranted a grand response from the sports world, with athletes such as LeBron James, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers expressing their feelings on the situation and desire for unity on social media.

NFL players have kneeled as well as locked arms with one another during this weekend’s games. Just about every NFL owner has made a statement against the President’s comments.

And yet, athlete activism is still a gray area in which people don’t know how to respond.

While it is amazing for players come together like this, they haven’t always had the support necessary to use their platform.

I want to take a step back to explain.

While the Carolina Panthers were on their run to Super Bowl 50, Cam Newton, who was the league’s Most Valuable Player that year, was the face of the NFL.

Newton not only had an amazing year statistically, totaling 45 touchdowns, but he had been applauded for his touchdown celebration, which was to give the ball to young fans in the stands behind the end zone.

Cam Newton seemed as if he could do no wrong.

And then, during that postseason run, he was asked a rather provocative question.

Newton was asked why he was judged so harshly by his critics.

His response?

“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to,” Newton told USA Today.

However, criticism to Newton’s response never allowed him to elaborate on his comments and just a few days later, he would say it was no longer an issue for him.

Eventually, Kaepernick seemed to pick up where Newton left off.

Kaepernick began protesting the national anthem as a way to bring attention to the violence from police towards African Americans.

People across America immediately viewed Kaepernick’s protest as disrespectful.

However, we forget that Kaepernick wasn’t the first athlete to do this.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a former NBA player, was nearly suspended for sitting during the anthem, something he did based on his own religious beliefs.

In 2016, WNBA teams wore shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” during warm ups and to press conferences.

NFL protests really began in 2014 when five Rams players raised their arms during pregame introductions to salute those protesting the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

You see, the problem with protests is they’re never going to leave everyone happy.

Kaepernick’s actions left people angry. They left the NFL angry.

After Trump’s comments, the NFL and its owners are embracing the same protest that Kaepernick began over a year ago.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Jaguars owner Shad Khan locked arms with their players during the anthem on Sunday. Both Khan and Snyder contributed millions to Trump’s inauguration.

Raiders owner Mark Davis had asked his players that they not protest while wearing a Raiders uniform. However, Sunday night that all changed.

“I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is to do it with class,” he told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez.

Several Raiders players sat with their arms interlocked during the national anthem on Sunday Night Football.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans protested Sunday by not leaving the locker room during the anthem.

All this, and yet, Kaepernick remains without a job.

Now people can go into the football aspect of things and try to explain that he isn’t a top-60 quarterback.

That’s nome of my concern. But have you seen who the Jets are playing at quarterback?

That is beside the point. What is more important is that athletes’ great influence and publicity allows for them to bring light to issues in our world.

So why did it take Donald Trump’s comments for these protests to become to prominent?

Athletes didn’t have enough support.

I don’t blame Cam Newton for not standing up and saying why he feels he is treated differently.

Why?

Athletes saw what happened to Kaepernick. They saw his image get tarnished in the media. They saw what people had to say about him.

They saw hate.

They watched him lose his job and essentially get banished from the NFL for trying to raise awareness for something he believed in.

You don’t have to agree with him. But you do have to respect his First Amendment right.

LeBron James was one of the most outspoken athletes towards Trump’s comments, and it hasn’t been the first time he’s advocated for change.

James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul had called athletes into action at the 2016 Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award (ESPYs) and were met with applause and respect.

Despite this, as more and more players advocated for change, the more it angered people.

Athletes from all sports have advocated unity and equality. Whether it was wearing shirts with a message on them during warmups, using social media to call peers into action or simply speaking their minds in interviews, they are advocating for change.

Kaepernick sparked league-wide protests, and it got him shut out.

However, just this year, when Marshawn Lynch was asked by reporters why he didn’t stand for anthem, nobody seemed too bothered.

Why?

Because he didn’t say he was sitting for a cause. It was simply just something he’s done his whole career.

You see, when it comes to athlete activism, America is hypocritical.

We want our athletes to endorse good things and use their platforms to be role models for young people.

But the minute they use their platform for something that we don’t agree with, we want them to stop.

We’d rather have them not stick their noses in political and social issues and just play their sport.

Until Trump’s comments, it seemed that these protests would remain on a small scale at sporting events.

Now they’re the number one story, and for good reason.

With owners backing players to speak their minds NFL figures are promoting, unity, brotherhood and freedom.

It is amazing to think that our country is uniting around the negativity of our President, but nonetheless, it is effective.

What Kaepernick began over a year ago is beginning to come full circle. It may not be in the exact way he intended, but it’s helping set the example of unity and equality that he advocated for continuously.

To all the athletes protesting this weekend, I applaud you for taking a stand and using your stage, because America needs your influence.