The impact of sport is heavily felt throughout our society. We look at sports as a way to get away from the pressures and stressors of the everyday grind. There is nothing better than sitting with a group of friends, whether in front of the television or live at a venue, and watching two teams (or individuals) compete for dominance – even if it is short-lived.
But to a lot of people, participation in sports is a ticket out of a negative situation. For these people, sports can bring them to places that they have never seen. It can help them meet people that they have never dreamed of. It can provide for a different status than what they are used to.
To a lot of people, sport is life, which means that to those same people, success in a particular sport means a better life.
I was raised in a neighborhood that knew this first-hand. We watched many people from our hood become very successful athletes. What does that mean? It means that they got a scholarship to play at an institution (whether the scholarship was for a significant sum or a little sum is irrelevant). We would watch these student-athletes come back from their institutions (some of which we had never heard of) for the summer and play or practice their summer – lightyears better than when they left, and marvel at their new-found physique, as well as their new-found fame. As youths, that is all we needed to know – sports were where you found your new life.
These were the people we looked up to. These were the people we wanted to emulate. Did these young college athletes know the influence they had over us? For the most part, no. But, nevertheless, they had us.
The point of this story is to provide context to what I am about say.
Sports figures still have that effect on people today. Our society still looks at those sports figures as leaders.
When Lebron James, a kid from Akron, Ohio, says something, people listen. He provides an avenue for people who do not have his platform; people who do not have his talent; people who do not have his influence. He understands that what he says matters to millions of people who look like him. It is disingenuous to tell a person who used his talents to get where he is at to “shut up and dribble.” It is asinine to tell a person who has his work ethic to tell him that he is “lucky to be where he is.” It is reckless to tell someone who demands his fair share of an industry that makes billions off of his name that he is “only playing a child’s game.”
Millions of people listen and watch what he says or does in sports, in business, in education, in politics, and strive to be just like him. Just as I listend and watched what local athletes said and did and strived to be just like them. I understand that you may not agree with the platforms that he stands for, but you should recognize his efforts for the greater good. What he is doing is not a new-found formula – especially in the black community.
Jim Brown does it.
Muhammad Ali did it.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar does it.
Venus and Serena Williams do it.
Arthur Ashe did it.
Jessie Owens did it.
Jackie Robinson did it.
The list could go on.
Sports provide a media for sports stars to speak for those who have no voice.
It is the same as it ever was. As long as you have a population feeling oppressed, you will find people that will look to its exceptional people to be their voice.