In 1999, when I was fourteen years old I remember renting a movie called “The Hurricane.” It starred Denzel Washington and I thought it was a movie about boxing. Little did I know it would be about so much more. I watched that movie and by the end of it, I was angry, disgusted, and sad. Rubin Carter was targeted by racism and put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Many people from all walks of life demanded for his release but it took the most simple people to expose the injustice that kept him locked for twenty two years. I realized then that was not just a one time problem. This was a long standing problem that unfortunately is still going on today.
Fast forward to 2016 and Colin Kaepernick. He began kneeling during the National Anthem because he said he could not support a country that still had so much racial divide and injustice. A lot of people were upset that Kaepernick wore a Fidel Castro shirt and wore socks that had cops dressed as pigs. Unfortunately, those two things served as a catalyst to why his message wasn’t taken seriously. Looking back on his message four years later, we as a society should have listened to his message. Two years prior to Kaepernick kneeling, multiple NBA players wore shirts that said, “I Can’t Breathe.” Those were the finals words of Eric Garner as he was being put into a choke-hold by a police officer. So before people were outraged about what Kaepernick, the collective body of the NBA said that racial inequality and injustice needed to stop. They urged people that police who used unnecessary force needed to be held accountable for their actions.
The words, “I can’t breathe” were uttered once again on May 25th, 2020 were uttered again when George Floyd was suffocated during an arrest over a non-violent crime. Since that day we have seen almost every major city start off with a protest and end in a riot. Let’s be clear about that while we’re on the subject. Those who are setting things on fire, stealing from businesses and vandalizing property should not be compared or even used in the same sentence. Things have have gotten so heated that even our athletes are hitting the street to share in the message of frustration. NBA Stars Jaylen Brown, Tobias Harris and Dennis Smith Jr have been involved with peaceful protests. You had UFC star Jon Jones getting involved by confronting people that were vandalizing the city he lives in. NBA Star J.R. Smith had fight off someone who was destroying his vehicle. You also have WWE Superstar Titus O’Neill talking to local police about his concerns and his feelings about the issues that are plaguing this country. African American men and women from the poorest to the richest are all saying that enough is enough. Shouldn’t that be enough to create change?
I remember years ago, Charles Barkley said he was no role model. Chuck was well within his right to say that and I hold nothing against him for saying it. Not all athletes feel that way and they want to be a role model and bring positive change. Lebron James is one of those athletes who has spoken many time, but has he also backed up his words by doing many great things to help his community. I’ll be the first to admit that it use to get on my nerves when athletes and celebrities use to speak out on certain issues, but I changed my attitude over the last few years. I listen to the ones who take their words and put them into action. When Lebron James or another athlete is on my TV talking about something important, I will absolutely listen. Why? Because I know they will take action to create change. Now more than ever our athletes need to continue to speak out and take action. For some people, the athletes we watch are our influence that we look to for guidance, and how to better our lives and communities.
A lot of people don’t want to listen to government officials, law enforcement, social experts or authority in general. If we don’t want to listen to them, then listen to those who you respect, admire and look up to. Generally, those people are athletes, musicians, actors and actresses. We look at them as heroes when they do something great. If our heroes are saying that racial injustice, inequality and police brutality need to stop then it needs to stop. If our heroes are saying that destruction and violence need to stop then it needs to stop. Many athletes from MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR, UFC, WWE and others sports have spoken out on social media or interviews on TV. If our heroes are saying that change needs to happen then it needs to happen. If we don’t listen to our heroes, who are we going to listen to?
Editors Note: The athletes who I mentioned in this article aren’t specifically my heroes. For some people, their heroes are the brave men and women who have served this country proudly in the military. For kids, their heroes are characters they see in movies and TV, or an athlete they enjoy watching compete in a sport. A hero is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Those things can be viewed many different ways by many different people. My hero was a teacher who came into my life when I was 12 years old and dramatically changed the whole course of my life for the better. It just depends who you connect with and who has an impact on you.