Political Activism Still Not in Sight

Derrick Rose wears “I Can’t Breathe” shirt during warm-ups.

In light of the recent political protests by professional athletes, many bloggers have declared that political activism has finally made its way back into the realm of professional athletics. With the St. Louis Rams’ protest of the decision in the Michael Brown case and Derrick Rose wearing a warm-up shirt that says “I Can’t Breathe” in protest of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death, professional athletes are finally starting to become political activists, right? Wrong. It’s important to understand the distinction between a political statement and political activism when analyzing the actions of professional athletes.

A political statement is a single effort to promote political change that doesn’t necessarily mean the person has a long-term commitment to the cause. Political activism, on the other hand, consists of constant efforts to advocate political change over the long-term. While any political involvement by professional athletes is great, I argue that these particular instances are political statements instead of political activism.

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Jocks For Justice

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With the recent events in in New York and in Ferguson Missouri, there has been a lot of outrage in society. There has been no shortage of it when it comes to athletes too. This would have to definitely gone against what Kelly Candele and Peter Dreier wrote about in their article, “Where Are the Jocks for Justice?”. The article talks about the lack of athlete involvement when it comes to social justice issues. They give one example, Adonal Foyle, who started the “Democracy Matters” group to educate young people about politics and encourage them to vote. They then go on to talk about Steve Nash’s resistance to the Iraqi invasion, and how he wore a shirt that says, “No war, shoot for peace.” The article is a little outdated though, from 2004, and times have changed.

As I stated before, there is no shortage of athletes nowadays who are willing to take stances on social justice issues. This is especially apparent when it comes to the the very recent issue of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I personally believe a big reason for this is for the advent of social media. The social media outlets of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have allowed all people, not just athletes to voice their opinion.

There have been many recent examples of this, with Lebron James posting this picture on Instagram, in protest of both the Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin incidents.

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Magic Johnson, vented his disbelief and anger through twitter posting this tweet.

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Serena Williams took to twitter to voice her opinion in this tweet.

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In the end, the “Where are the Jocks For Justice?” article in my opinion is obsolete nowadays. At the time that the article was written the biggest form of media was the television and the news, so although I’m sure athletes wanted to take certain stances on social justice issues, they really couldn’t, or just did not care to because the effort to do so was too hard. In current times, through the use of social media, we can see that athletes are very much so aware of social issues and do take stances on what they believe is wrong. So through the Ferguson case, we can see almost a sort of case study into how over just about 10 years times have changed, and now more than ever athletes and standing up for what they believe to be right, taking a stance, and voicing their opinions.

How Gender Impacts “Revenue Sports”

In any Division 1 athletic powerhouse, like the University of Michigan, there are 3 sports that are predominantly popular: football, basketball, and hockey. These sports are considered “revenue sports” because the funds generated from them are greater than the cost of operating their athletic program. It’s great that there is so much enthusiasm at the collegiate level surrounding these 3 sports, but what happens to the others? There doesn’t seem to be much fervor surrounding the less popular sports, such as rowing, soccer, tennis, wrestling, golf, track and field, etc. When I hear about all of these neglected sports, I feel bad because most of these athletes’ hard work and success goes unnoticed to the student population. Ironically, I never made an effort to go support these athletes either because I didn’t have much interest in their sports. I have always been used to spectating the most popular games. However, I recently took a trip to East Lansing to support my sister and the Michigan women’s novice rowing team as they scrimmaged against Michigan State University. This experience really demonstrated to me the enormous gap in popularity between the revenue sports and the rest of the University of Michigan athletic program and reminded me of the disparity between men and women’s sports that Mika LaVaque-Manty discusses in Being a Woman and Other Disabilities. Continue reading

A Contract For Hope

Devon Still and his four-year old daughter, Leah.

Contracts between professional athletes and their respective teams are some of the most lucrative agreements we see in the world today. Players are rewarded for their on-field achievement as well as the hope they provide for future success. These contracts are guaranteed for the duration of the agreement in three of the four major professional sports leagues in our country today, with the exception being the National Football League. In professional football, contracts are not guaranteed, leaving is up to the owner’s discretion whose contracts will be honored and whose will be terminated. This agreement between professional football players and team owners regarding contracts is a situation that closely follows the principles outlined by Thomas Hobbes and has been in the news recently with an inspirational story from the Cincinnati Bengals. Continue reading

What Would Have MLK Thought of the Case of Eric Garner and Mike Brown?

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The year 2014 has been an eventful one when it has come to racial tensions. Over the summer two events occurred which have totally changed the racial landscape of America in the present. In July, an African American man, Eric Garner was outside a beauty salon, selling illegal cigarettes, trying to make a little extra money. The ensuing confrontation is video taped with Garner and the police. Garner can be seen as saying “leave me alone” and “it ends today” (referring to the constant badgering he would receive from the police.) What happens next we can see the policemen start to take him down, with what seems like unnecessary force. Towards the end of the video you can hear Garner, saying repeatedly in a muffled voice “I can’t breathe.” The following court case would yield a not guilty verdict on the part of the policeman who choked Garner out. (fast foward to 1:04 to see the actual video). 

A case which also had a huge ripple effect on the african american community occurred a month later with a young man named Michael Brown. Brown was seen on surveillance video, stealing from a connivence store right before his confrontation with policeman Darren Wilson. The account which Wilson provides is the confrontation had gotten physical, with Brown starting to attack him. Brown would go on to reach for Wilson’s weapon, where at this point he proceeded to shoot Brown a total of 6-7 times hitting him, with the last shot more than likely being the fatal one. brown-and-wilson

The ensuing court case would yield results much similar to the Garner case, with officer Wilson getting let off with a not guilty verdict.

With both instances, the person responsible for killing the victim were found to be not guilty. Though both were committing crimes, was this use of force necessary? Whatever the case, what happened angered many, many people causing ensuing protests. In Ferguson, Missouri, where the incident took place, there was peaceful protests right after the indictment. But these protest escalated very quickly into what would be riots, violence and looting. In New York the story was much different. Though the case with the police officer who choked out Garner got a similar indictment as Wilson, the protests which have been on going in New York City have been relatively peaceful. So we must ask ourselves- What would Martin Luther King think about these two cases?sc4630-1bwm

In MLK’s “A Letter From Birmingham Jail”, King address the “direct action” through the use of peaceful protests to change an injustice. I believe if MLK were still alive today he would look at both cases, and would totally disagree with whats going on in Ferguson. This is the exact opposite way to bring about change. They are perpetuating violence with more violence. This is probably the most ineffective way to change a problem. On the other hand though, I believe he stand behind the peaceful protests occurring in New York City. The situation which they are creating in New York through peaceful protests is indeed causing tension. The type of tension which MLK describes would bring about negotiation and change.

So do I stand behind whats going on in Ferguson and the reaction of the community? No. But on the other hand, a much more appropriate response is happening right now in New York. And through the reading “A Letter From the Birmingham County Jail” I would have to say that MLK would agree with me on this one.

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. Continue reading

Why The United States Must Fight ISIS: Fear, Honor, and Interest

On July 12, 2007, in the midst of cries from politicians to remove troops from Iraq, President George W. Bush issued a warning of the daunting terror threat to come in the future if he decided to take boots off the ground. 

Putting aside your opinion of President Bush and his policies, his assessment was very accurate. After President Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq, despite the advice of our military commanders to keep them stationed there, terrorist organizations were allowed to regain a stronghold in Iraq and begin recruiting terrorists from other regions, such as Syria. With the absence of the United States in Iraq, ISIS has become a major terror threat worldwide. They have proven they aren’t the “JV team” that President Obama once referred to them as. ISIS has beheaded two American journalists and a French hostage, has been linked to a plot to behead people in the streets of Australia, and has killed many women and children in Iraq. The current news surrounding ISIS has reminded me of the 3 reasons why we fight according to Thucydides: fear, honor, and interest. All of these reasons can be applied to why the United States is going to war with ISIS. Continue reading