Sports and Entertainment: Taking A Stand on Political Issues

J. Cole marching with protesters in downtown Manhattan
J. Cole marching with protesters in downtown Manhattan

In a 2004 article by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier, entitled “Where Are the Jocks for Justice”, the question of an athlete’s ability to become involved in controversial political affairs of the nation was called into play along with the repercussions that would come with voicing their opinion such as losing endorsements and playing time on the field. This was something I never really thought about until I read the article. It was interesting, and in light of the country’s current affairs dealing with Police brutality and abuse of power against unarmed African Americans resulting in death. This was more recently highlighted in Ferguson Missouri and Statin Island, New York with Michael Brown and Eric Garner respectively.  Coming across a picture of African American rapper J. Cole marching side by side with protesters after a grand jury decided that no charges would be brought against the police officer that placed Eric Garner in a fatal choke hold while he was allegedly selling cigarettes on a New York corner, I was able to make a distinction between how athletes and members of the music industry are able to go about voicing their political opinion, even going as far as physically marching in a protest. Not just giving a vocal opinion.

Instead of being reprimanded by his peers, fans, and music label, Cole was praised for remaining so humble after becoming famous and supporting a worthy cause with way more than just a statement. Thousands of fans took to twitter giving their opinion on Cole’s decision to participate in the protesting that has been rocking the nation. “J Cole is for the people that being said I’m going to buy his album”. It was also reported that legendary film director Spike Lee was marching with protesters as well. Seeing this type of positive reaction from people compared to the negative reactions and comments such as “just shut up and play” towards athletes, is sound cause for a closer look at what kind of actions by athletes would be effective and legitimate in the pursuit of political goals (known as political agency). What makes it permissible for artist and other famous individuals alike to express their political opinion and not athletes? It is important to look at how music artist are perceived. They are mainly capitalized upon for their voice, so that is what most people tend to pay attention to. Whereas because athletes are used more for their physical actions, not many are focusing on what they have to say. Though it is not to go without saying that all musicians are able to freely voice their opinion, it is just that they are able to do so more frequently and with less repercussions than athletes. In “Where Are the Jocks for Justice”, when Tiger Woods attempted to break the silence of race issues within the league it backfired and that was the first and last time Tiger Woods touched racial controversy. Jocks and musicians both bring a special voice and insight to the political affairs of the nation, although it is much easier for musicians to voice that insight.

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One thought on “Sports and Entertainment: Taking A Stand on Political Issues

  1. I found your post to be very interesting and I think you definitely made some very relevant and solid points. I do think that it is sometimes harder for athletes to voice their opinions, but I do think it has been done with great success. For example, just this past weekend several St. Louis Rams players came out of the tunnel with their hands up in support of Michael Brown. They were symbolizing, “Hands up, Don’t shoot.” While the act received some criticism and was controversial so does any protest for the most part. When J. Cole and Spike Lee marched in the protests, they may have personally received little criticism but the protests as a whole did. That is no different than the athletes as their little protest as a whole received criticism. All involved in their protest were players and they all received criticism for it. If J.Cole or Spike Lee were to protest individually I think the reactions would be very different and they would receive the same criticism the athletes did. Another example is Lebron James and the Miami Heat collectively wearing hoodies with the hoods up in support of Trayvon Martin. They received support for the most part from the sports community and the country and not one of the players seemed to have any fear of fine, suspension, or losing endorsements. While your argument, makes sense and it is true to a certain extent, there is another side to it at well. Overall, I found this to be a very interesting post.

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