Are Athletes Becoming More or Less Vocal?

The “St. Louis Five” who showed support for Michael Brown before their game this past weekend

For today’s PolSci 101 Lecture, we had to read an article titled “Where Are the Jocks for Justice?” by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier.  According to the article, the general trend for athletes today is to not speak out about political issues that they feel passionate about because it is not good for publicity or marketing.  Our reading quiz last night asked “Can you think of any recent examples (not ones mentioned by the article) that would be an exception to the general trend discussed?”  The first example that came to mind was this past weekend when the St. Louis Rams players came out of the team’s tunnel when they were being announced with their hands raised in support of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” campaign for the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Beyond that, I couldn’t think of many examples off the top of my head, so I began doing some research on current athletes speaking out for what they believe in.

The Miami Heat team photo that depicts them wearing hoods in support of Trayvon Martin

As it turns out, athletes speaking out has been an increasingly more common trend in the past few years.  One of the biggest actions was by the Miami Heat, who posed for a photo all wearing hoods, similar to Trayvon Martin when he was shot and killed.  I found another article titled “Sports Stars Are Waking Up” that discussed other athletes who were beginning to speak up, such as Ben Watson, David West, and Kobe Bryant.

What I found most intriguing about the article was when they talked about Donald Sterling and how his team stood up against him.  If you don’t know much about the Donald Sterling fiasco, you can read about it here.  The result of Donald Sterling’s racist comments was a silent protest staged by the Clippers, where they took off their warm up jerseys displaying their team name and dropped them at center court and proceeded to warm up in red shirts that did not display the team’s name.  In the end, Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban from the NBA.  While it was the role reason he received the punishment that he did, the Clippers silent protest showed how they can use their “celebrity status” to bring attention to an issue and get things to change.

The Los Angeles Clippers

I think that the Clippers have opened other athletes’ eyes to just how powerful they can be.  I think that one of the biggest things that they realized is that they have strength in numbers.  All 3 of the big protests that I have mentioned in this article have included between 5 guys and an entire team.  In “Where Are the Jocks For Justice”, it states “Athletes now have too much to lose in endorsement potential” (Candaele and Dreier 2004).  But if individual athletes are not speaking out, and instead it is an entire team, the risk for the players goes down significantly and the potential reward is easier to attain.  Athlete activism has been increasingly more common in the last few years, and I think that it will only grow in the future, and that the players will have the potential to impact the country and enact change.

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One thought on “Are Athletes Becoming More or Less Vocal?

  1. I found the other examples you provided of athletes speaking out on controversial issues interesting, and I noticed how all of the protests seemed to be peaceful and in accordance with Dr. King’s philosophies surrounding peaceful protest. These brave athletes all found issues that personally affected them, staged peaceful protest, and sparked much debate surrounding their issues, much like Dr. King did. Although I feel that in-game protests are a bit much, I think more athlete support for controversial issues will go a long way in addressing the issues.

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