Can NBA Stars Make a Real Difference This Season?
Americans are sports-obsessed. The sports industry was worth $60.5 billion in 2014 and is projected to be worth $73.5 billion by 2019. We love sports. All kinds. On ice, on grass, on a diamond, and on hardwood. And we love our athletes. We hold them up as heroes, role models, spokespeople, and sometimes superhuman. People that can defy the rules of physics and do other-earthly feats. Who can forget the short-lived cult classic, ProStars (the answers is most people. The show only lasted three months before being canceled)? From Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, to Wayne Gretzky. We admire athletes and what they can do in their sport. We swing like Ken Griffey Jr (damn that swing was sweet) in little league and we stick our tongue out like Jordan on the court. And every year, we go out and purchase the latest version of Madden, 2K, MLB, etc. so we can play as our idols.
At times their feats seep into the way we see situations outside of sports. At work we, "give it 110%" or "play as a team for a common goal". We tell stories about how Steph Curry was under-recruited because of his size and if we're ever underestimated we gain perspective and strength from those stories. But our athletes do not have Kevlar vests for all arenas of life..political statements about social justice. In the last couple decades of his life Muhammed Ali was seen as a lovable teddy bear with the heart of gold and embodiment of strength through silence. However, for those old enough to remember Ali in his prime their story is a bit different. Ali was loud, boisterous, in your face, quick-witted, smart, funny, controversial and most importantly, on the right side of history. Ali looked at the social injustices going on around him and decided he could no longer stay silent. It costs him years from his prime but we as a nation were better for it. But Ali didn't receive the rosy praise he received much later in life. He was viciously attacked in the media at the time. Roasted worse than any roast on Comedy Central.
Today we're seeing a similar roast and take down of Colin Kaepernick. We get really upset when someone "disrespects" the national anthem. His backlash was quick and fierce (just look at the comments on his twitter feed or the death threats he's receiving). But Kap is not at the top of his sport like Ali was. But these four men, if not at the top are much more recognizable and popular than Kap : LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade. Beginning with Carmelo's NY Post op-ed piece, these four took the ESPY's as an opportunity to double down on their social activism. In particular, LeBron's presence and high profile is especially intriguing. He is arguably the best basketball player in the world, the most recognizable athlete in the world, and one of the most polarizing. LeBron has made political statements in the past but there's a big difference between wearing a t-shirt at pregame warm up and taking a stand on national tv in front of millions of viewers. These four players are no strangers to shade but if they continue their political statement this will be stronger tea than Kim K served T. Swizzle. But more importantly, people will be watching for the method used for their political statement. Kap raised so much distraught around the country because he took his "stand" during national anthem. A symbol and time that is meant to be free of political ideology and solely full of nationalistic fervor. That was the brilliance of his stance. He figured out a way to get the most amount of people talking about his statement. It was not a team approved method like we've seen in preseason games so far, as teams have locked arms in unity. How will these four giants of the NBA continue to advance the conversation? Will they lose steam as their jobs take up much of their mental and physical time? All we can do now is wait and see but I'm really excited for the start of the season.