More athletes should use their platform to increase political involvement


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LeBron James continues to use his voice to influence others.

LeBron James, of the Los Angeles Lakers took the internet by storm when he wore a black hat that read “BETO” before a game in San Antonio on Oct. 29.

Twitter users seemed elated for the most part, with the post rendering over 15,000 likes and thousands of comments. Of course, there were many others that disagreed with James’ support for Texas Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke.  

This is not the first time James has voiced his support for O’Rourke. Earlier this year, James saluted the candidate by retweeting the viral video of  O’Rourke’s thoughts on athletes who kneel during the national anthem.

Earlier this year, though, Fox Show Host Laura Ingraham diminished the voices of athletes, as she publicly stated that she could not trust political advice from “someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball” during a live television segment named “The Ingraham Angle”. Ingraham followed this by stating, “Keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, shut up and dribble,” inciting a bigger discussion on the position sports should take in politics; more specifically, what stance James should have in the matter.

These words rang true for a large number of sports fans after the tweet surfaced. They felt James had no business representing Texas politics considering that he has never been a Texas resident himself and is a world-renowned athlete representing a universally recognized league.

It is no secret that celebrities are under a microscope. They are expected to stick to the playing fields they are known for. For athletes, especially those of color, there are expectations to create divisions between political issues, rampant racism, and their favorite television pastime. Fanatics have created a barrier between sports and anything regarding the negative aspects of our social climate.  

In 2012, James paid tribute to Trayvon Martin, by posting a picture alongside his teammates of them wearing hoodies with the caption “#WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Stereotyped #WeWantJustice” on his personal twitter account.  And in December 2014, James and other NBA players paid tribute to Eric Garner by wearing shirts that read “I can’t breathe.”

Athletes participating in activism is nothing new, especially with the rise of social media. The history stems back to the 1940s. According to Pacific Standard magazine, “Black athletes have found themselves in a political bind since World War II: Embrace politics, or keep it at arm’s length in the interest of self-preservation.”

The future Hall of Fame athlete has taken full advantage of the platform, as his connection with the NBA has inspired the careers of many. His globally charged presence has influenced a myriad of people to use their voice.

James and other athletes intend to continue to use their power to speak out on social issues. In response to Ingraham’s comment, James collaborated with Maverick Carter to produce a three part Showtime documentary series, Shut Up and Dribble, giving an inside look at the roles of athletes in this current political environment.