In 2021 we seem to live in a society that promotes division and dislikes any idea of unity. From the common people to the political figures we elect and trust in, to make the correct decisions for our daily lives. It seems as though that the mere prospect of uniting as one is mere as I stated… a prospect. But despite all odds, there appears to be one thing that can bond people together no matter background, social class, political or religious beliefs and that is sports. The beauty of sports is that it gives the athletes a platform to speak out and impact change more than they would otherwise, while not pushing away the fans rather just informing them on how they view the world and the issues they see in it.
My goal here today is to provide some examples of athletes who have used their platforms to attempt to unify the people while also bringing awareness to different subject matters.
LeBron James & NBA
I feel like there’s no easier place to start an article on this subject other than the National Basketball Association itself. Before LeBron James’s original departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2010 which set off the player empowerment era of the league. The NBA was much more of the “shut up and dribble” product that most if not all NBA stars are looking to move away from nowadays, with the expectation being that said stars act like robots, don’t comment on controversial issues, and essentially be the owner’s tools. But due to the rise of player empowerment, players have been given the freedom to make their voices heard, and none have been more vocal than LeBron James himself. While consistently catching flack from others, LeBron has made himself a leader of the African American community and his presence even if at times misinformed has been an example of an athlete using their platforms as what they preserve as “good” while not completely alienating/shunning fans with different beliefs.
Unlike Basketball and in the NBA, soccer players have always been ones to speak out against injustice and have always found ways to make their voices be heard. In the era of technology and social media racists and bigots alike have found it far easier to spread their hate and negative propaganda against athletes, an example of this is what happened just last July. Following England’s loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 finals in penalty kicks which saw Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford all black men under the age of 23 miss crucial penalties which ultimately led to England losing the game. The 3 received mass amounts of racial abuse online, which led to many people being tracked down and arrested. While this may not have been the athletes speaking out, it was all result of their actions. If not for the failures of those 3 kings the idiots sending racist abuse towards them would not have been arrested and would most likely be walking free as I write. A second example of a soccer player bringing a spotlight to injustice is Mesut Ozil taking a stand against the conditions of Chinese labor camps more specifically those camps targeting members of the Uighurs community in the North-Western regions of Xinjiang, despite both Adidas and Arsenal distancing themselves from him immediately after he made those comments.
In conclusion, sports and other athletic events are one of the only places where people can bring awareness and speak out on things and not completely divide everyone and people are willing to listen since everyone is united under that certain team or player.