San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick re-ignited athlete-driven protests with his stand against police brutality, and he’s empowered many other athletes to speak out.
In 2015, The Washington Post documented close to a thousand fatal shootings by police, ninety-three of which involved people who were unarmed. Black men accounted for about forty percent of the unarmed people fatally shot by police, and were seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire.
Now the argument over whether or not professional and collegiate athletes should be able to use their platform as a personal means of expression has become a large national issue.
This isn’t a new movement. Athletes like Mohammed Ali and 1968 Olympic Medalist Tommie Smith are known for making athlete-driven statements decades ago.
Since athletes are technically at work when they decide to make these protests, the debate stems from whether or not they should be penalized for doing so.
“Some of them may feel they are not at that level to take that risk,” CSUN Africana Studies Professor David Horne said. “[Their employers might say] ‘we expect you to not conduct yourself in a way that would embarrass the team or the business’.”
But athletes have only their professional platforms to make a statement. Whether they are in an interview or on the field, they have a limited amount of airtime, but they often have a large following.
“It’s their right to do so,” said Reverend Jewett Walker, President of 100 Black Men of Los Angeles. “If someone chooses to do that, I think we should embrace that, honor that, and respect it.”
Many athletes have messages that aren’t meant to start controversy.
“My responsibility was to be an example,” said CSUN Women’s Basketball Coach, and former college basketball player, Jason Flowers, “so somebody that had the same background as me could look [at me] … and say ‘that person was able to succeed, and I’m capable of it too’.”
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