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Poll: Should Athletes Re-Engage in the Political Arena?

For many years, athletes stood up and demonstrated for political causes. What happened?

 

It's been awhile.

Years ago, 1968 to be specific, two Black athletes from America stood on the victory podium at the Mexico City Summer Olympics and raised black-gloved fists, bowing their heads during the playing of the national anthem of the United States.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos chose the spotlight of a worldwide audience to protest racism in America, and show off their personal political views.

Just a year earlier, in 1967, boxer Mohammad Ali was publicly scorned for his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. According to historical records, Ali stated, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong... No Viet Cong ever called me nigger."

By 1972, the United States was heavily involved in the Vietnam War. Protests opposing the war energizied many college campuses, including UC-Berkeley. To the south, UCLA star basketball player Bill Walton, who'd just led the Bruins to an NCAA championship, felt strongly against the war, and was quite publicly seen at demonstrations, expressing his personal opinions.

The list of famous athletes expressing their political opinions continued with tennis stars: Arthur Ashe protesting South Africa's apartheid policies, Billie Jean King testifying before Congress on behalf of gender equality.

All of this, and more, is detailed in an excellent article writer Gary Smith put together for the latest edition of Sports Illustrated.

What happened? Why aren't athletes infusing themselves into the political arena anymore?

Smith has a quote from John Carlos in the article. "Athletes today? They don't know history! They don't want to come out of their box and risk people taking their lollipops."

Actually, there have been recent incidents. Just a few months ago, Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James tweeted a photo he snapped of himself and other Miami Heat players wearing hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin's family and supporters.

But actual actions of athletes expressing their views are more and more rare.

The Olympic games are just a couple of weeks away. Will we see any political activity? Will athletes again dare to exhibit their views in front of a worldwide audience, as Smith and Carlos did?  Or are athletes too far removed from politics these days? Are they too fearful, as Carlos says, of people taking their lollipops? Boiled down, should athletes re-engage in political causes?

Let us know your thought in the comments. Then vote in our poll.

Buck Shaw July 08, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Dear Dave; Its truely a sad state when you have to refer to politicians as "Professionals" it belittles the voter and is an indication of our sad state of affairs these days.. {"No, athletes need to leave politics to professional politicians."}
Dave Colby (Editor) July 09, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Good point, Buck. Don't mean to belittle anyone. These are different times, aren't they? Thanks for the note.

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