Jermaine Every: Athletes should be lauded for pointing out injustice
By: Jermaine Every
“Shut up and dribble.” That statement has been a hot topic. So has social commentary in general from athletes. I’m not sure why the public has such an issue with athletes speaking out on the societal issues they feel strongly about.
I’m sure John Carlos and Tommie Smith faced some backlash when they raised their black-gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics. But that was during an era in which blacks were still fighting for civil rights and equality. That fight isn’t over. Neither are other issues at the forefront of our society. The “#MeToo” movement comes to mind. Which is why I can’t understand why we haven’t heard the phrase “shut up and act” or “shut up and sing?”
Actors and other entertainers have always taken a stand against societal issues and provided social commentary via their various forms of art. Whether it’s a commercial, a song, or a gesture or wardrobe statement, they’ve made their feelings known for years. Frequently, top actors and actresses have used award ceremonies to voice their opinions. Singers have made songs about their views and opinions. So why has it become taboo for athletes to do the same?
One of the reasons I feel it’s an issue for athletes is because a lot of them have been blacks and minorities speaking out on this country’s treatment of blacks and other minorities. This started with the Civil Rights Movement. Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and many others used their star power as pro athletes to further the Movement. Anthem protests were sparked by police brutality and killing of unarmed blacks and minorities. The president has made himself a very polarizing figure with some outlandish actions and statements, most of which have caused a ripple of divisiveness in our country. Some have caused athletes and entertainers to speak out. However, the athletes are the only ones to get flack.
The “#MeToo” movement was started because of sexual assault/harassment allegations against some of the movie/television industries top executives, actors, and actresses. This shined a light on some ugliness that has been going on behind the scenes of our entertainment industry. Recently, there have been some allegations against college basketball programs paying players as a result of an F.B.I. investigation. I know there are different departments that handle different things. But why is it that women feel unheard reporting these allegations to authorities, yet we have task forces dedicated to finding out who’s paying what college basketball player?
I’m not lost on the fact that these two issues are completely different. I’m not trying to downplay either one either. I have a close friend who was the victim of sexual assault. It hurt to find out what happened years later and knowing I wasn’t there for her. I’ve also seen what those illegal payments have done for some of those athletes and their families.
The one thing that has pissed me off more than anything is the way the media, and our society as a whole, has treated athletes who speak out against social injustice, or societal issues they feel strongly about. The “#MeToo” movement was seen as shedding light on the horrific behavior of people in power. But when LeBron James speaks out against societal inequities, which are painfully obvious, he gets vitriol spewed his way? Injustice is injustice no matter how you slice it. Whether it’s sexual assault, police brutality, racism, sexism, or any kind of ugliness that plagues our society, anyone who chooses to speak out against it should be afforded the same opportunity. I don’t give a damn if it’s an older white NBA coach like Gregg Popovich speaking out on social injustice regarding blacks and other minorities, or if it’s the men affected by harassment or assault in the #MeToo movement, everyone is afforded that right under the First Amendment. And yes, you’re also afforded the right to offer rebuttal or critical commentary under the First Amendment as well. However, in the interest of being a decent human being, shut the hell up criticizing people speaking out on the obvious injustices that plague our society.