The sports world is often a source of relief in times of turmoil. Many see sports as a way to escape the realities of life and the problems in the world. Throughout the history of sports, societal and political issues have crept their way into the sports realm. Athletes have taken on this burden, using their platform to promote change and get society to a place where everyone is treated equally.
In recent years, athletes have stepped up their game in bringing attention to issues plaguing the nation. Many players, teams, and leagues are more active than ever before in politics, social justice causes, and more. That was evident during the latter half of 2020 and after the Pro-Trump attack on Capitol Hill.
Athlete activism reached an all-time in 2020
Athletes using their celebrity status and platform to promote societal change isn’t new. Sports legends like Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabar, and Muhammad Ali were pioneers of athlete activism. Plenty more have taken part in athlete activism over the years, but 2020 is when it hit an all-time high.
In May of 2020, George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His murder sparked national, even worldwide outrage. Protests occurred all over the world, with many sports players and organizations joining in. Superstars like LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes, Giannis Antentokounmpo, Bubba Wallace, and Serena Williams helped and supported the protesters’ fight for justice.
The activism continued throughout the summer. The NBA and WNBA prioritized athlete activism when their league’s restarted in their bubble environments in July. Players in the WNBA took it to the next level. They assisted Georgia Senator-elect Raphael Warnock in increasing his political profile prior to his election against one of their own, Atlanta Dream owner and Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler.
NFL players pushed the league to apologize for how they treated quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he kneeled in protest against police brutality in 2016. In 2020, athletes recognized just how much power they have and how their words and actions can make a difference. They once again used their platform to denounce the actions at Capitol Hill.
Athletes react to the Pro-Trump attack on Capitol Hill
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump staged an attack on Capitol Hill. This was to prevent Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. The riot was so bad the building was on lockdown for most of the afternoon.
Many athletes across all sports leagues shared their thoughts on what happened in D.C. The tone from many players and coaches was disgust, frustration, and shock. Golden State Warrior forward Draymond Green had strong words for what occurred, calling the attackers at Capitol Hill “f****** terrorist.”
NFL receiver Davante Adams gave some insight into how things would’ve been different if Black Lives Matter people protested. “Can’t imagine the casualties there would be had that been BLM… Wtf is going on,” Adams tweeted. WNBA player Natasha Cloud tweeted out a similar analysis. Atlanta Hawks coach Llyod Pierce provided a statement. Part of it reads, “What we’re seeing now is a sad reality that our country has yet to reckon with and acknowledge. For those who didn’t believe it, I hope you believe it now.”
A plethora of athletes responded to the event, sharing the same message of double standards prevalent in America. Players of the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers took a knee during the national anthem before their games Wednesday. The attack was a heinous and inexcusable act, but that has fueled athletes even more.
Athletes activism will be stronger after the Capitol Hill attack
This attack on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters will only ignite a stronger fire within these athletes. They will not let this deter them from continuing their activism and fighting for social justice. There is more work to do so all people can feel safe and respected in America.
The reactions from notable sports figures signal a societal and political awareness not seen before in the modern sports era. Players understand that for there to be real change; they must lead the way. Their platform is bigger than most government officials because of how often American citizens consume sports. It shouldn’t be their responsibility, but they are more than willing to shoulder the load.
The storming of Capitol Hill is something that will be a stain on America’s legacy forever. The apparent double standard that law enforcement showed is something athletes have been trying to get the ignorant to understand for a while now. Many still won’t see it, but sports players will continue to shed light on the inequities people of color face daily. Athlete activism isn’t going anywhere, and players are willing to do more than ever before to bring much-needed change to a flawed American system.