Should African American professional athletes speak
against the discrimination towards African Americans?
Desiring to make the country a better place, African American celebrities, especially African American professional athletes who used to be no body but now become famous, decide to speak against this discrimination publicly and call on people to stop doing so. Leigh Steinberg, Sports Agent, states, “If the larger society is traumatized by social issues–they (professional athletes) can provide an informed and healing voice.” Oppositely, some of the African American athletes states that “They owe nothing to African Americans — especially in regards to helping alleviating Black community’s economic problems”(Colin). Also, some people criticize that professional athletes should not speak on these “social” or “political” issue, and all they need to do is playing sports. Discrimination, something that degrades human beings, exists in the America, a country stands for liberty and freedom. This is by no means a understatement on this issue. As a result, whether African American professional athletes should speak against the discrimination becomes the center of social discussion. It is undeniable that African American professional athletes should not speak against every social issues, but in this case, they definitely have both rights and responsibilities to speak up.
Lives of African Americans lack neither safety and opportunity. “African American has been in a life-and-death struggle with racism and White Supremacy until and will not end in the near future” (Colin). According to the data, African Americans are more likely to be killed by police. In 2015, at least 1146 American citizens were killed by the police, and among them 307 were African Americans, which significantly disproportionate with the population of each race in the America. Meanwhile, 32 percent of African America killed by the police in 2015 were unarmed, as 25 percent of Hispanic and Latino and 15 percent of white, which means unarmed African Americans are as twice likely to be killed as white counterpart (Jon). Also, the segregation does not disappear and even goes worse in education. From 1993 to 2011, the number of black students in school where 90 percent or more of the students population are minorities rose from 2.3 million to over 2.9 million. A 2013 study found that segregation measured as exposure increased over the previous 25 years due to changing demographics. The study did not, however, find an increase in racial balance; rather, racial unevenness remained stable over that time period (Wikipedia).
African American professional athletes have the rights to speak against the discrimination, because African American professional athletes are also part of the discrimination, although they are on a relatively high level of the society. Their children inevitably face school segregation, and even if they can send their children to a high ranking school, they cannot change the fact that black students are minorities. Even if they can prevent themselves from being killed by the police, in sports leagues, African American professional athletes still face discrimination. Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, said some racist speakings when he argued with his girlfriend. He said that, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people” (Mona). Thus, As people who have affected by the discrimination, African American professional athletes have the rights to speak up.
Meanwhile, as celebrities of their race, African American professional athletes have the responsibility to speak for those who cannot in their race because they can. Since celebrities are capable of influencing the society by speaking or behaving, African American athletes, especially superstars in sports leagues, have huge impacts on the problem of discrimination. According to Leigh, “Athletes have ample opportunities to express their views in interviews, social media, by demonstrating or attending rallies.” They have tens of thousands of followers on their social media accounts, they have opportunities to speak publicly, and their actions will easily be seen by the public. They are able to change people’s attitude towards discrimination. Colin Kaepernick, a professional soccer player, successfully attracted public attention after his anthem protest, and he said “ I’ve been blessed to be in this position and be able to make the kind of money I do… I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed or given those opportunities to succeed” in a interview with ABC News. His action, although controversial, provides a strong support for those who cannot speak out the discrimination. Thus, African American professional athletes should speak for those who cannot speak but still suffer from their lives.
Some people claim that professional athletes should not speak on these “social” or “political” issue, and all they need to do is playing sports. Oppositely, I believe that African American professional athletes are not only celebrities who speak for their race, but also role models for young generation of every race. As role models, they have responsibility to guide youngsters, and act social justice on their own, because youngsters wear their uniforms, imitate their life styles, and even believe what they believe. African American athletes are automatically shaping life attitudes of youngsters. In the other hand, social medias put African American professional athletes under the public spotlight, where they have to make the decision that whether to speak or not. According to what Leigh states, “That television monitor acts as a magnifying glass, which produces athletic performance and personality in larger than life detail. It is inescapable. Athletes will be figures of admiration and emulation in this sports obsessed society. Young people will look to athletes whether we wish them to or not.” So, if African American professional athletes do not stand on the just side and make right decisions as we wish our future generation will do, they will cause negative impacts on youngsters. Even if they just keep silence about those social issues, other people will consider this action as a signal that this issue is not important enough for them to speak on. Although African American professional athletes do not expect this misunderstanding, they make it themselves, because deciding to do nothing is a decision. All in all, as role models, it is their responsibility to speak up against social discrimination, and guide youngsters to a positive position, but not keep silence.
Furthermore, African American professional athletes speaking against the discrimination is the best choice for the communities or even for the country. If African American athletes speak against those who cannot speak and act as role models, they become great contributors in their communities. They guide the young people to the right direction, which alleviates conflicts between black and other races. They are willing to help all the people in the community, which creates equality in the community. If they do things which other people expect from them, not only they will have sense of achievement, but also others can benefit from the harmony environment they create. Just as what LeBorn James said, “Go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better.” African American professional athletes should “educate themselves, explore these issues, speak up, use their influence and renounce all violence” (Leborn). as their forerunners do, especially in the society where politicians have gradually lost their public convincing. Both president candidates in election 2016 are somehow undermining the public convincing of politicians, because Hilary Clinton was reported corruption during the election, and Donald Trump has almost no political background. Under this circumstance, athletes are the best candidates to lead the communities. People do not need more politicians to convince them. They need professional athletes to stimulate them, speak for them, and stand up as role models.
If African American professional athletes can use their influence positively, then they can also use it negatively. Thus, we still need to think about how to prevent them from going negative direction. Our society should consider those influential people who are willing to work on social issues as role models, and praise them for doing so. Meanwhile, we have to condemn those who cause negative effects on the society, and never set them as examples. Under this condition, we set a tone for a our better future.
Colin, Benjamin. “African Americans Should Ditch Black Super Athletes Who Don’t Stand Up For Justice.” Black Star News, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.blackstarnews.com/us-politics/justice/african-americans-should-ditch-black-s uper-athletes-who-dont
Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland. and Jamiles Lartey. “Black Americans Killed by Police Twice as Likely to be Unarmed as White People.” The Guardian, 1 Jun. 2015,http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/01/black-americans-killed-by-polic eanalysis.
“LeBron James on Social Activism: ‘We all have to do better’.” ESPN.com News Services, 14 Jul.2016, http://www.espn.com/espys/2016/story/_/id/17060953/espys-carmelo-anthony-chris-paul -dwyane-wade-lebron-james-call-athletes-promote-change
Leigh, Steinberg. “Why Do We Make Athletes Role Models?” Forbes, 20 Jan. 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/leighsteinberg/2013/01/20/why-do-we-make-athletes-role-m odels/#528856ad6273
Mona, Chalabi. “Three Leagues 92 Teams and One Black Principal Owner.” Fivethirtyeight, 28 Apr. 2014, http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/diversity-in-the-nba-the-nfl-and-mlb.
“The Counted: People Killed by Police in The US.” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-kill ings-us-database.
Wikipedia contributors. “School segregation in the United States.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Dec. 2016. Web.