By: Ryan O’Toole ~Staff Writer~
In the past few weeks, a time in which America is experiencing turmoil with regards to cases in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, athletes have been using their positions in popular culture to take a stance and speak out.
The first major move came in an NFL game between the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders.
St. Louis receivers Tayvon Austin and Kenny Britt came out of the tunnel holding their hands in the air, using the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture.
They were soon followed by the rest of the receiving core. The move, a reference to Michael Brown’s reported gesture before he was shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, spread like wildfire across the country via social media.
It is uncommon for professional athletes to risk scrutiny by making a stand on a social issue.
Their popularity puts these athletes in the spotlight causing them to always be cautious about their comments.
The next week, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls donned a black shirt with “I Can’t Breathe” written boldly in white lettering across the front, a clear reference to the death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, in Staten Island at the hands of a white police officer.
Kyrie Irving and Lebron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers wore the shirt during warmups a few days later as a statement to Garner’s family.
“It’s more of a shout out to the family more than anything, because they’re the ones that should be getting all the energy and effort,” James said.
Athletes are using their platforms as superstars to spread awareness and make statements about current socials issues.
When asked by the Chicago Tribune about the shirt, Rose said, “I’m a parent now. Two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have worn the shirt. But now that I’m a dad, it changed my outlook on life, period.”
Not everyone may agree with the move, but it cannot be denied that athletes have the power to spark change, whether it is with a simple gesture or by wearing a T-shirt with three small words on it.
“My biggest concern is the kids,” Rose said. “I know what they’re thinking right now. I was one of (those) kids.”