With a graduation rate peaking above 80 percent for the first time in history, the united states seems to be emerging from its educational slump of the past decade. With test scores lagging behind those of our neighboring countries, officials, citizens, and the community alike are still worried for the future. What many claim as ‘falling behind’, I view as something else. Being on the cutting edge of state development since our founding, I believe that the United States is in the midst of pioneering the next stage of development of first world development.
In lecture this week we were talking about athletes that stood up and supported causes throughout the years. Now not many athletes participate in many political or social movements because of the backlash that people before them received. For example, The Nation Post, Where Are the Jocks for Justice? It states “Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash wore a T-shirt to media day during the NBA’s All-Star weekend that said No WAR. SHOOT FOR PEACE. Numerous sports columnists criticized Nash for speaking his mind. (One wrote that he should “just shut up and play.”)”. Another example is when Tiger Woods did a commercial for Nike referring to the racism within golfing clubs he was severely criticized for it. Today that has all changed with the increase of very controversial issues more athletes are voicing or showing their opinions.
I was reading a post on the how some members of the St. Louis Rams walked onto the field doing the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose. The pose is in response to the increasing numbers of force used by police against unarmed citizen. It started with the death of Mike Brown, an unarmed eighteen year old who was gunned down by a police officer. Some people supported those members of the St. Louis Rams who participated in the very popular pose but some were very critical of their action.
Just recently Fox News host Bill O’ Reiley on air said something along these lines that the rams were too stupid to know what they were participating in. A couple of things popped into my head. One being Is he saying this because most people think that athletes aren’t the smartest people in the world? That wasn’t the case though because he continued to say, all I’m say is be careful who you sympathize with. He was calling them stupid because he believed they shouldn’t be sympathizing with people who support the Ferguson movement.
On the other hand people like Benjamin Watson a football player for the New Orleans Saints has been praised for his Facebook post that responded to the Ferguson court decision. His post has been called moving, motivation, inspiration, and other great things. In this post he voices his anger, concerns, fears, and hopefulness. The most interesting part of the post was when he writes,
“I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”
He not only just bluntly states his opinion he brings religion into his response, something many people are not willing to voice publicly.
Different situations bring out the most unexpected response. And I have to say I was not expecting those responses to come from athletes.
In their 2004 article for The Nation, Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier describe athletes speaking out against injustice. Some of the influential professions mentioned include Adonal Foyle and Steve Nash of the NBA, as well as Tiger Woods and Billie Jean King. Candaele and Dreier argue that there is a lack of athlete activism today, and I would agree that this is true. While recent events have inspired protests from athletes, like members of the St. Louis Rams, there are few athletes willing to speak out. College athletes are usually even less apt to speak out, because their futures often rely on scholarships that can be taken away.
Earlier this year, in April, members of the University of Northwestern football team broke that trend. They made an effort to unionize their team, and take their treatment into their own hands. The effort is still very much ongoing, and is being fought by the NCAA. There has been plenty of controversy in recent years over the NCAA treatment of players. Schools and the Association profit heavily off of the use of player names and likenesses, but the players themselves never see any of this money. We read earlier in the semester about Ed O’Bannon, the former UCLA
basketball player suing the NCAA over the continued use of his name and likeness. The Northwestern players represent a different situation, and a change in tone. They are current student-athletes taking aggressive action against what they see to be an injustice. Previously, most athletes to speak out on any institutional issue have been former players like Ed O’Bannon, or the NFL players suing the league over head injuries.
According to the Grantland article we read about Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, athletes are more or less required to help their institutions profit from the use of their images. It is hard to argue that this is not exploitation. In fact, exploitation is defined as “the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” By this definition, the NCAA is surely exploiting its student-athletes. They make sure that athletes create revenue for them, and they do this by playing their sports. While some have stood against it, there are too many who have not. Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier’s call for more athletes to stand up is as relevant as ever. The more athletes to call for justice, at any level of sport, the better off everyone will be.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. details his definition of civil disobedience in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. Dr. King clarifies that in order to participate in civil disobedience, breaking laws is necessary. This may only occur if the law is unjust. An unjust law is one that does not apply to everyone and is not applied consistently to all, like the segregation laws that Dr. King and others like Rosa Parks fought during the American Civil Rights Movement. Although Dr. King’s non-violent forms of protest greatly influenced the Civil Rights Movement, he was not the first American to resist unjust laws on American soil. The Boston Tea Party is a well-known form of civil disobedience that helped spark the fire that led to the start of the American Revolutionary War. Also, women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in the 1872 U.S. House of Representatives election, considering the 19th Amendment enabling women to vote wasn’t passed until 1920. During the Vietnam War, activists took action against the draft and all the young Americans who were fighting/being killed overseas.
As Americans, we are able to enjoy our constitutional rights that protect our ability to protest and criticize our government. In many countries, however, this is simply not the case. More oppressive regimes in countries like Communist China and the former Soviet Union, freedom of speech and the right to organize was not something those in power allowed to happen. Although those regimes both used violent means to suppress acts they considered treasonous, by far the most extreme when it comes to the consequences of speaking out against those in power, would have to be Fascist Germany.
Facing periods of unemployment and hyperinflation, many people suffered tremendously after World War I. With Germany’s Weimar Republic beginning to waver, those power made no effort to hide that it was holding on by a string, unable to cope. In a time when liberalism seemed to have failed in Europe, hope for a brighter future had all but been lost in the eyes of many Germans. It wasn’t until Italy’s Benito Mussolini crafted the definition of fascism, in which the admiring Adolf Hitler used in crafting his vision of a new Germany. Hitler was able to convince the Germans that fascism was the long awaited cure to the period of economic and cultural decline they were experiencing, as it was different from other political traditions. Continue reading
In lecture for Political Theory 101, the topic of “Changes” was discussed in terms of political institutions. The French Revolution elucidates the radical institutional changes that can occur with the mobilization, determination and pressure of the working-class on the governing elite. During the French Revolution (1787-1799) French citizens redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Inspired by the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, the French Revolution was particularly influenced by the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people and its legacies are omnipresent in our daily lives as a democracy. The French Revolution’s enabled a structural transformation of government that more accurately and justly represented the needs of the people. In the United States, our representative democracy is becoming decreasingly representative and increasingly aristocratic and demographically homogenous; thus, making Congress unrepresentative of the rich diversity of ideals and nationalities of their electorate.