Athletes Respond: In The Wake of Charlottesville, Silence Is Not An Option

Athletes Respond: In The Wake of Charlottesville, Silence Is Not An Option

It’s now been a few days now since violence took center stage at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, was one of the first athletes to speak out after the protests.
Over the course of several tweets, he wrote:

“It’s 2017. Actual Nazis just marched on #Charlottesville. We have to come together & drive this hatred & domestic terrorism from our country. Since I’m new in DC, I’ve purposely kept a low profile and stayed off social media but what happened in VA made me sick. While it’s important to protect free speech, we have a patriotic obligation to condemn racism and domestic terrorism by white supremacists.

The C’Ville I knew from my time at @UVA is a diverse and accepting community. It’s no place for Nazis. People say “if we don’t give them attention they’ll go away.” Maybe. But if we don’t condemn this evil, it might continue to spread.

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” – JFK

This kind of hatred was never gone, but now it’s been normalized. They didn’t even wear hoods. It’s on us to condemn it and drive it out… There is only one side.”

Chris Long, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive end, followed suit, writing:
“Everybody is trying to turn this political. This isn’t a political issue. This is right or wrong. I believe you’re on one side or the other. For me, being from Charlottesville, no one wants to see you sit idly by and watch that stuff happen and not say anything. And I wish there was more categorical denial from some very important people in this country who have had the opportunity to strike it down but didn’t.”
His brother Kyle Long also responded. These were just a few of the earliest responses, but the most prominent one was probably from Lebron James, who gave an impassioned speech at an event on Tuesday night:

“I know there’s a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville,” James said before leaving the stage at Cedar Point amusement park. “I just want to speak on it right now. I have this platform and I’m somebody that has a voice of command, and the only way for us to be able to get better as a society and us to get better as people is love.

And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to conquer something at the end of the day. It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case. It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day. It’s not about people that you just don’t feel like want to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us. It’s about us looking in the mirror. Kids all the way up to the adults. It’s about all of us looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can we do better to help change?’ And if we can all do that and give 110 percent … then that’s all you can ask for.”

USA Today spoke with several athletes about the tragedy, including two former NBA stars Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Stephen Jackson. Abdul-Rauf told reporters:
“At some point, (Trump) has to be held responsible for some of the language that he was dishing out, as well, in a sense to influence these types of groups… Look, if you’re just talking, if you’re just protesting, according to the laws of this country, you have a right to do that. As long as you as you’re not physically harming someone else. But it shows that words are powerful and sometimes this is what happens. Not everybody can hold their emotions in check.”
While Abdul-Rauf’s commentary was more nuanced, Stephen Jackson was quite succinct:
“At the end of the day, if you’re not against racism, you’re racist. Point blank.”

Former linebacker and NFL analyst Bart Scott this this is just the beginning. Scott told USA Today:

“I think what happened in Charlottesville this week is going to inspire more athletes to say, ‘Hold up, wait, we’re going backward as a country, not forward.’ These people didn’t even put masks on! Some of these people are professors. How are you going to teach these people? If they’re that bold to march with their faces out, something needs to be done… “If you don’t speak up and you turn a blind eye because you’re good, because you have a great home, your kids go to a great school, eventually, it’s going to knock on your door. You’re going to have to deal with it. So you’d better be proactive.”

So far, Scott appear to be correct. It’s only preseason, but Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks has already decided to sit out the national anthem.

In the days following the rallies, many other athletes responded. The list included (among others): Harrison Barnes, Jeremy Lin, Evan Turner, Sam Dekker, Earl Watson, Garrett Temple, Kyle Martino, Danny Kanell, James McAdoo, Donovan Mitchell, and London Perrantes. Twitter was filled with voices, and we’ve included some of the loudest ones in the space below:

I’m sure, in the coming days, more people will speak up in hopes that one day they might no longer have to do so.
[Cover photo via Pixabay]