Athletes using sports platforms to push for social change

Published 8:26 am Monday, July 25, 2016

Athletes today are using their platforms as sports celebrities to bring attention to the violence that has erupted across the country and recently Carmelo Anthony has been one of the most outspoken.

The New York Knicks All-Star is taking a break from his preparation with the Olympic basketball team today to host a meeting in Los Angeles with athletes, politicians and people in the community to advance the conversation about what he’s called a broken system.

University of California-Berkeley professor emeritus Dr. Harry Edwards said today’s athletes have a level of power that Muhammed Ali and others didn’t have in the 1960s, and they have begun using it to speak out against violence both by and against police.

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How much change they can effect remains to be seen, as Ali changed the world.

The newfound power of today’s athlete comes from monetary wealth, celebrity status and having the vehicle of social media to communicate directly with the masses. They can reach hordes of people, encouraging them to get involved in social change.

“Joe Louis and Jack Johnson and Jesse Owens struggled for legitimacy,” Edwards said. Then “you began this struggle for access. Which is what Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby and Kenny Washington and all those guys were involved in. In the 1960s, the struggle was for respect and dignity.

“Now the struggle is for power. And these men have power. So they have a different forum than we had in the late 1960s to be able to go on network television and make a statement concerning violence and the killing of black men, women and children in this country. … That’s an exercise of power. They have the capability today that we only dreamed about in the 1960s when only one or two athletes even had endorsements.”