More Than an Athlete

July 30th 2018: This was the night CNN aired an exclusive interview between Don Lemon and LeBron James. During this interview, James, an NBA legend, philanthropist, and global icon, discussed many things. They talked about the opening of James’ “I Promise” School in Akron. Ohio, where he doing things for parents and kids alike, such as providing free uniforms and meals for students, and providing parents opportunities to earn their GED’s and a food pantry open to all. He also discussed the state of politics, President Trump, and what it is like being a black man in America. A few days later, Trump provided a response to James calling him a “bum” by stating the following in this twitter.

While this may seem (and it is) immature for a person in power like President Trump to respond to comments about himself, this was not the first time this year that James was attacked for being outspoken politically and about the injustices facing the country for African American males. On February 15th, an interview by Cari Champion of James and fellow NBA superstar Kevin Durant was aired by UNINTERRUPTED, a digital media company started by James that has given athletes a platform to discuss topics from showing their daily grit and grind of their sport, to talking about social issues affecting communities around the United States. During the interview, they discussed not only the pressures of being a top athlete and the all star weekend that was approaching for the NBA, but also about social injustices and the political climate. A few days later, Laura Ingraham, a white female new anchor from Fox News did a piece on that interview named “Jocks on Politics”. During her piece, she attacked LeBron for grammatical errors and stated “this is what happens when you leave high school a year early to join the NBA.” Before she concluded her piece, she said that no one voted for them and the should just “Shut up and dribble.”

While she is correct that he did leave high school early to pursue the NBA and that he gets paid millions of dollars a year to play basketball, does it mean that their political and social views are any less important because they aren't a politician or a news anchor like herself? Athletes have long been viewed as “dumb jocks” by the general public and this stereotypical way of thinking has hindered the message of these athletes. Many modern day athletes and coaches have used their platform to extend their influence and reach from sports to communities across the globe, all while being scolded and belittled by older sports fans and conservative new outlets such as Fox. The argument that is made by this group of people is that these athletes like James are not famous for their political views or social activism, they are in their positions right now because of their athletic ability and such not dive into politics or social problems. This argument is weak and in of itself, is dumb. Yes, these are professional athletes who make their money shooting a ball into a hoop, but just like you yourself aren't defined by the job that you work, why should professional athletes?

Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem for social injustices of African American men in the U.S

While many professional athletes have gone to college to play their sport, an added bonus is that many of these top sport schools also have great academic prowess. Some of these schools include Michigan, Duke, North Carolina, Stanford, and UCLA to name a few. These schools provide athletes with great educations that help them with business endeavors in the future past their playing days. However, many athletes themselves take it upon themselves to learn about investing and how to make the most charitable impact, due to the massive sums of money they are paid from their teams and endorsers.For example, James will make about $35.6 million dollars this year just from is contract that he had recently signed with the Los Angles Lakers. However, it is estimated that he will make $55 million dollars this year from his endorsements, which includes a lifetime contract with Nike, and business investments, such as Blaze Pizza, which is the fastest growing restaurant chain ever.

James at a Blaze Pizza in Chicago

If you still are against athletes using their platform, think of it this way: If the tables were turned and you were put into James shoes, wouldn't you take advantage of the position you are in? Personally, if I had the influence, income, and impact that LeBron James has, I would 100% use all outlets I was given to change the world for the better. These athletes like James aren't trying to convince people that what they say and do are gospel, they are just trying to promote the idea that they could use their influence and image to be more than just athlete, but to be voices of communities who have no voice, and to be the help that they will most likely never get from the world around them. By athletes like Colin Kaepernick bringing social issues like the unjust treatment of black men in America to the forefront of media by just simply kneeling for the national anthem, we are forcing America to reflect on our ideals and values, and we are bringing conversations of racial and social into homes across the United States.

Athletes are not just athletes anymore, they have become icons and activists, supporting the movement for social justice for all in America, They will not just shut up and dribble.

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