We’ve all heard the term “shut up and dribble” used by political news correspondents as they try to shut down athletes’ voices when it comes to off-the-court issues.
Fox News’ Laura Ingraham vehemently used this quote to mock NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant as they criticized Donald Trump’s performance as president in an ESPN segment called “Rolling With the Champion” back in 2018.
In one of the most important, yet toxic elections in history, athletes are doing what they can to make an impact on who gets elected.
Athletes began using their platform back in May following the death of George Floyd.
They were able to be a part of protests and rallies as just human beings instead of athletes without the risk of taking the shine away from racial injustice issues. Some of them even became joined in these protests and spoke up against systemic racism and the growing occurrence of unlawful killings of Black people in the United States.
Once the NBA returned in July, the issues did not lose their significance as social justice became the focus of the on-court spectacle.
The words “Black Lives Matter” made their way onto the court and all players could put league-approved social justice messages on the back of their jerseys.
Players noticed the power they possessed following the shooting of Jacob Blake in August. The Milwaukee Bucks walked out of a playoff game in wake of the news and this triggered a two-day sports blackout so that the public was no longer distracted from the atrocities occurring in everyday life.
It’s time for the world to accept athletes can no longer be entertainment props. They are people who are affected by the ever-changing political landscape just like you and I. The evolution of the professional athlete has grown beyond winning championships and MVP awards. They now have a responsibility to be leaders of change and to encourage the public to vote, regardless of political preference.
2020 has shown the power of athletes’ voices outside of sports. One of the stronger voices during this time came from NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace following an incident at Talladega Superspeedway, where a rope in the shape of a noose was found hanging from his garage stall.
While many people turned against him for speaking out against racism, Wallace held firm and continued to promote the Black Lives Matter movement on and off the track.
Times are changing. Professional athletes have finally recognized how big their platform truly is, and will no longer be bullied by those who continue to tell them to “shut up and dribble.”