In Ferguson, protests have broken out after the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and lack of indictment of the police officer involved, Darren Wilson. In Staten Island, there has been controversy after a police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, allegedly used a banned chokehold to subdue 43-year-old Eric Garner. Both of these events created a divide as many people noted how these cases reflect the attitudes towards African-Americans and the police brutality inflicted upon minorities. Amid the protests surrounding the deaths of Garner and Brown is increasing support for the social movement by prominent athletes. Recently, many in both the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have used their positions as celebrities to help elicit attention.
On Nov. 30, five players of the St. Louis Rams walked onto the field with their hands up as to emulate the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture of Ferguson protesters. In early December, several NBA players took to the court to show their feelings of injustice. Players such as Derrick Rose, Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant donned t-shirts with the words “I can’t breathe” to signify Garner’s last words.
As a sports writer and a human being, I believe the aforementioned athletes should be applauded for their actions in protesting. The athletes were proactive in becoming educated and supporting a cause, creating a call for action to the public. We are challenged to use a collective voice in order to help remove the racial prejudice that both Brown and Garner faced at the hands of police brutality.
Others may argue that Brown and Garner were thugs, but regardless of whether or not they committed any type of a petty crime, the fact remains that both were unarmed citizens who died in situations that could have been handled in a more humane way. Brown and Garner have been incorrectly portrayed as two individuals who do not deserve the same rights as any other citizen, effectively reflecting the drastic need for public attention. The fact that both Wilson and Pantaleo were not charged for their brutal misconduct, despite several testimonies and even a video of the banned chokehold used on Garner, sends the idea that as a society, we do not acknowledge this dangerous trend.
It is because of this we must recognize that the issue the athletes address is not one just for public figures, but one of civic duty to express our opinions. It may seem doubtful that showing individual support can create any real change, but as the athletes of the 21st century have demonstrated, a collective voice can be formed by those willing to speak out.