Despite its unpopularity with the public, sports fans can expect more athlete activism ahead, says Jesse Washington, senior writer for ESPN’s blog, The Undefeated. Appearing as a guest on ESPN Radio’s The Sporting Life with fellow leftist Jeremy Schaap, Washington said he expects activism to proliferate.
“Race became the biggest issue in the most popular sport of America, the NFL, and really it was a battle between black players who wanted to protest racial injustices by taking a knee during the national anthem and the establishment, the white establishment and the NFL and President Trump. So its been an incredible year, and I think activism … and I think we’re definitely gonna see more of the atmosphere … and the activism is snowballing,” Washington said.
Washington praised LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick for igniting the activism of today’s professional jocks. He credited NFL protesters with getting Commissioner Roger Goodell to the table to discuss issues important to black players, though it wasn’t easy. After all, Washington said, “He’s trying to herd a bunch of elderly billionaires — all of them white, or most of them white, and that’s a tough job.”
“Colin Kaepernick, for better or for worse, is definitely now in the pantheon of all-time activist athletes and he is the successor to Muhammad Ali,” Washington said. “He represents somebody who took a stand and really sacrificed his career as Ali did briefly for his people, and I commend him for that … He said in the beginning ‘you can take football away from me, but this is what I am going to do.’ He sacrificed football and millions of dollars for that.”
Washington also said James is a “sleeper candidate” for that same pantheon. “This is a person who is not afraid to open his views on very difficult issues. He probably opened the gates for athlete activism when he was with the (Miami) Heat (see photo above) when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. And he organized the photo shoot of him and his teammates in hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin.”
Not only that, Lebron spoke truth to power!
“LeBron James is the most popular athlete in the world who sells gazillions of dollars in merchandise and singlehandedly lifts TV ratings to unknown heights. And he called the president of the United States a bum and that did not dent his popularity in the slightest. That is an incredible situation and an incredible progression from even when Michael Jordan chose commercialism over activism.”
Washington said someone asked James why he doesn’t kneel, and “Lebron said all I gotta do is say something, my platform is this big, and he takes that platform seriously. That’s really an amazing point in the continuum of activism and African American activism we’re on.”
Along with his praise of active athletes striving for that pantheon, Washington also criticized opponents of the activism. “There are a lot of people in this country who believe that black folks continuing (to raise) issues are their own fault and that the playing field is level when it comes to race and any protests to the contrary are a waste of time. And those feelings — they feel like they’re papered over for a long time. We thought we were past it, we’re colorblind, we elected a black president, but really these things were simmering beneath the surface and the protests brought them out.”
This post originally appeared on NewsBusters