ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. The following is an article from Issue 5: Revolution.
Staff Writer and ZU Radio General Manager | Toph Buzzard
Professional athletes in the United States have always used their platforms to give their take on political issues. It’s not a new concept. It’s just different with modern media.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam war because of his religious beliefs. In an era void of Instagram, Ali used a press conference to convey that message. Furthermore, Ali brought along several of the nations top African American athletes to support his stance.
In the 1968 Olympics, two US track runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Without Twitter to get their point across, Smith and Carlos used their medal platform, quite literally, to take a stance on something they believed in.
Fast forward to the social media boom. Hashtags and viral images drive our protests. In 2014, the entire NBA took a stance against the issue of police brutality. Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, many star NBA players and even full NBA teams wore “I Can’t Breathe” warm up shirts and #ICantBreathe took over Twitter in response to Eric Garner’s death. Garner, an unarmed African American man, was choked to death by a police officer who the grand jury decided not to indict.
Colin Kaepernick also protested the issue of police brutality and further problems with race relations in America by kneeling during the national anthem on Aug. 26, 2016, a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Videos and gifs of Kaepernick’s gesture went viral, leading to a league-wide protest that continued into this past NFL season.
Kaepernick’s protest also bled into America’s pastime, baseball. Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the national on Sept. 23, 2017 in a regular season game against the Texas Rangers.
Maxwell, the son of a U.S. Army veteran, also used Twitter to make his stance known. He said, “Inequality is being displayed bigger than ever right now as our president shows that freedom of protest and speech is not allowed.”
As of the last couple of months, the one they call “The King” has been in the news not because of anything he did on the court. Rather, Lebron James was in the news because of comments he made regarding President Trump and the advice that Fox News’s Laura Ingraham gave him following his comments.
During an interview with Uninterrupted, he made several remarks about President Trump. He is recorded saying that Trump “does not give a f— about the people.” Several days later, Ingraham called James’ comments “barely intelligible,” “ungrammatical” and proceeded to tell him to “shut up and dribble.”
Using the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend as his stage, James continued using social media as a platform to respond to social issues.
With over a million likes on most of his Instagram pictures, James released his “I am more than an athlete” campaign and accompanied it with his hashtag #wewillnotshutupanddribble. During the NBA All-Star Weekend, James was photographed wearing his Nike Air Force 1’s that read “more than an athlete” on the side. The photo was posted by the official NBA All-Star Twitter account.
Uninterrupted is a digital video company that was started by James back in 2015. The company received upwards of 16 million dollars from Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Sports with the hopes of providing content for sports fans that is not skewed by the media. Athletes post the videos and make the editorial decisions.
James is using Uninterrupted to speak on social issues without a filter.
In support of James, former teammate and close friend Dwayne Wade said in an article with Complex, “I do more than dribble. It’s just not who I am. It’s never been who I am. For me, it’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than dribbling, and I’ve been given an opportunity to use my voice.”
Now, athletes have the platform of social media to further their stand on social issues and “The King” is just another representation of athletes pursuing equality in America.