What role do athletes have in the BLM protests?

With riots and protests sparking across the world, what role do athletes have in using their platform?

Gauthier Meley
8th June 2020
KeithJJ via Pixabay
Following Drew Brees’ very controversial statement about kneeling during NFL games on Friday, and athletes’ comments and actions about the protests and recent events happening in the world, it rose a question about the role of athletes in these difficult times.

In today’s society athletes are highly influential and they obviously know that. Colin Kaepernick, Lebron James, Megan Rapinoe. They all try to change their games and their society, especially with what is happening now. The power and visibility they have should be used to make constructive statements. Athletes can have a greater impact in the society than some politicians, Lebron James has more Twitter followers than Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden combined. Marcus Rashford has almost the same number of followers as PM Boris Johnson. It shows how popular and impactful they are.

By being this influential and powerful they really can make a change in our society and sometimes people will more likely listen to them than their politicians. This has been the case during the pandemic, and the first few days of protests against systemic racism in the world. For example, Rashford raised over two million meals per week for people in need in the UK, and Dak Prescott, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, donated one million dollars for the training of the police and education. But yesterday’s comments from Drew Brees, an NFL quarterback, were very controversial. He said that he would not agree with someone kneeling because it is disrespecting the flag.

This shows that some athletes still don’t realise the power and influence they have. Especially when Brees is one the greatest Quarterback to ever play the game and is highly respected not only amongst players but with fans. Statements like those are solidifying a racist point of view and some people will use that to be openly racist, thinking that people like Brees are supporting their opinions.

Brees took to Instagram to apologise for his actions
Source: Instagram @drewbrees

Those comments were followed by the indignation of people and athletes around the world. The black community in sports, and especially in the US, is so significant. They're trying to change society with examples like Colin Kaepernick or Brandon Marshall. They both allegedly lost endorsements and their jobs because of the kneeling protestation in 2016. For them, using their visibility and influence to highlight this recurrent racism problem peacefully is essential. That brings awareness to anyone watching games.

But to disagree with the peaceful protestation, in that case kneeling, means that you also disagree with the problem itself. Which for Bress, a player that represent a city like New Orleans with a large and historic black community, isn’t very smart. The timing of those comments was also the worst possible. The whole world is trying to make a statement right now against racism and for equality for everyone. As a numerous amount of people have said: “it is not enough not to be racist, people have to be anti-racist”. Drew Brees lost this notion yesterday.

To fight this racism everyone needs to be involved. Loads of players have understood that, from Jadon Sancho in Dortmund to Stephen Curry in Oakland. A multitude of athletes passed on a message and made their voices heard. But to see a white player making those type of comments proves that there is still a long way to go until racism is eradicated, and we need to keep fighting and making our voices heard.

Featured image source: KeithJJ via Pixabay
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