Professional Athletes Remain Vocal In Their Silent Protests

Peter Mahler, Sports Editor

Prior to the NFL’s opening kickoff, thousands of Kansas City Chiefs fans in Arrowhead Stadium booed and jeered as their defending Super Bowl champions marched onto the green of their team’s turf, arms interlocked with the opposing Houston Texans. During their brief moment of unity, an organized protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the rest of the world remained divided in a year marred by civil unrest. Fans throughout the country either continued watching or shut off their TVs in protest of bringing politics into sports.

The last time a protest of such controversial scale occurred on an NFL field, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was making headlines for kneeling during the National Anthem; this was met with disastrous consequences from the NFL and its fans who, at the time, saw this as disgraceful to the American flag and all that it stands for.

Now out of the league entirely, Kaepernick’s presence as a social justice figure seemed all but quelled by last spring, when he was only remembered as a benched quarterback that was no longer good enough to play in the league.

Then, on Monday, May 25, George Floyd was murdered during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police.

Ever since then, police brutality and racial injustice have become far more apparent to Americans, with many more of these incidents being pushed into the limelight of a tumultuous 2020.

As a result, athletes throughout the world are responding, just like Kaepernick once did.

Of course, NFL players are not the only ones using their platform to speak out against these issues. NBA players have been just as vocal, whether by wearing messages on shirts and jerseys or even by postponing playoff games to make a statement. 

In one instance, both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers voted to cancel the season altogether if change was not enacted by the government.

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Although these protests have all been peaceful, the response from many fans around the country has been split whenever the American flag is involved. Woodson sports fans weigh in on the protests made by athletes.

“When it comes to players kneeling, they’re standing up for themselves, their community and are trying to prove a point,” sophomore Matt Hyder said. 

For Hyder, a member of the football and wrestling teams, “solidarity” is the right thing to do when people see something wrong with the world they live in.

Professional athletes are not just kneeling for the sake of solidarity, either. They are doing something to change the world.

Through the wealth these players accumulate over time, many of them decide to give back to the places where they grew up and to the communities who need the most help. People who come to mind are NBA legend Lebron James and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Both are leaders in their respective sports and are frequently seen working with impoverished American communities to better help their youth.

The particular traits of these players can be summed up as “sending their message through their actions,” Hyder said. “[They are] letting it speak for them.”

Needless to say, 2020 has been a year that most would like to forget ever happened. Unfortunately, events of racial injustice have left a lasting impact on Americans, particularly with the younger generations that walked the halls of Woodson just months ago. Woodson students, including athletes, are in a difficult situation when it comes to finding their political voices.

“I think athletes need to be vocal,” Hyder said, “and to not be afraid to voice [their] opinion. If you have strong beliefs in something that should be done, do something about it.”

The Chiefs and Texans certainly did something about it during that Thursday night game in Kansas City. After about a minute of standing in silence, welcoming every heckle and every boo, the players of both teams went back to their respective sidelines to get back into the mindset of the game that would begin shortly. Everyone in Arrowhead Stadium let out a sigh of relief now that their regularly scheduled night of football was beginning; but little did they know, so did the fight to end racial injustice. In fact, the fight has been going strong for a while now, and it does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.