September 03, 2019
What love-it-or-leave-it ‘patriots’ angry with athletes who protest don’t understand is we aren’t insulting the country, but focusing attention on those who don’t live up to its promises
Should athletes at the 2020 Olympics take political stances? | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Teddy Roosevelt referred to the office of presidency as a “bully pulpit”, a perfect platform to preach opinions to sway the public. At that time, “bully” meant “wonderful”, though today’s popular meaning of the word (to intimidate and coerce) applies even more. The president can use his office to say whatever he wants, whether truthful or not, and suddenly manipulate the opinions of millions of uncritical people. In doing so, he can encourage and even mobilize hatred and violence, discrimination, and policies directly contrary to the US Constitution. Those who disagree with the president don’t have the same powerful platform. They can’t gather all the world’s news organizations in a moment’s notice to deliver another opinion that is instantly broadcast to billions. Instead, they must find their “bully pulpits” where they can, for however fleeting that moment is, and hope that their truth gets out to as many people as possible, even though it can feel as ineffective as putting a message in a bottle and tossing it in the ocean.
Athletes have their fleeting moments to proclaim their opinions and have famously and powerfully done so in the past. In 2020, the Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo and athletes will command the world stage. It is an opportunity to do more than promote themselves for endorsement deals for clothing and their face on a box of Wheaties. It is a chance to let the world hear the rational voices that demand social justice, inclusion and protection of the marginalized and productive diplomacy.
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