By Stephen Kondor
The era of political issues only being talked about publicly by politicians and correspondents is over.
LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick and many other athletes have been speaking out in an attempt to actively make a difference by using their athletic platform to spread awareness and generate changes politically and socially.
There has been backlash to athletes sharing their political views, which can be seen in the viewership numbers in the NFL and in the commentary of these statements by media outlets.
This is not something new albeit much more common now, as Muhammed Ali was very politically active and refused to enlist, Saint Louis Cardinals players raised their hands up coming out of the tunnel to protest the Ferguson shooting, and Carlos Delgado sat during the anthem to protest the war in Iraq.
Athletes using their platform and brand to spread awareness to sociopolitical issues is the new norm.
If you ask them why they are doing so, they will all give you the same answer.
That they are speaking up for those without a voice.
Laura Ingraham recently attacked James for criticizing Donald Trump, saying that he should “shut up and dribble.”
James and other athletes responded strongly on social media citing Fox’s tendency to have celebrities on segments to discuss politics.
The #WeWillNotShutUpAndDribble hashtag was trending on Twitter following the remark Ingraham made.
The Trump era of politics and racial tension between police and minorities has sparked the backlash from pop culture and athletes alike.
The backlash is positive and not without merit.
Who is Ingraham or anyone else to decide whose opinion is valid and whose should be ignored or discredited?
A lot of these athletes have seen hardship in their lives or in the lives of those they have helped.
The disturbing portion of her attack on James is the lack of criticism of other sports figures who are white like Gregg Popovich, the head coach for the San Antonio Spurs, who has been a more vocal critic of Trump since before his candidacy.
Perhaps some of us have forgotten the First Amendment that grants citizens the right to free speech, and included in that is the right to criticize the government.
Athletes have the power to create change, not just because of their popularity, but also because of their capital.
Some athletes have the power to make a difference on a small scale, and others, like James, have the power to touch thousands of lives in a whole city by opening schools and funding education for those who cannot afford it.
Others have been silent protesters, like the Golden State Warriors, refusing the invitation to the White House following their championship win or Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem for police brutality and injustice.
Either way, athletes using their power to benefit others can only bring about positive change.
Whether it is speaking up for what they believe in or staying silent and taking a knee, it can only be good.
Collectively, we need to do a better job listening as Americans and should never discredit anyone for the color of their skin, religion, gender, age, political beliefs, sexual orientation and now we can add occupation to that list as well.