Pressing Social Issues in Sport Part 3 of 4



Paul M. Banks has an exclusive interview with Dave Zirin discussing the past, present and future social issues at the heart of sports

As I continued my interview with Zirin, I asked him about how/why some athletes are able to overcome the “just shut up and play” principle set forth by the status quo.  “The great political athletes of the ‘60s were, you could argue, the best basketball player Bill Walton, the best football player Jim Brown, the greatest track and field athlete in a generation Tommie Smith, people often forget how many insane records Tommie Smith had, his 200 meter record held for 20 years, the best college basketball player in history, Lew Alcindor, maybe the second best college player of all Bill Walton. So these guys all had the cover of their greatness,” Zirin said.

It’s true that if you’re really good at what you do (no matter what field you’re in) than you have more leeway in expressing your true viewpoints. If you’re mediocre or worse at your craft- then you more like have to just acquiesce.etanthomas

“Now Adam Morrison is trying to survive in the league, hanging on by his fingernails, J.J. Redick, believe it or not has a more secure place in the NBA. And I think if Adam Morrison was the kind of guy, a 20 point a game scorer, he would have been somebody who would have shaken things up in the NBA politically. And it’s a shame. For me it’s a shame because rarely do you see players with that kind if courage,” Zirin offered. Morrison actually cried when he heard that his favorite band, the socially conscious heavy metal quartet Rage Against the Machine broke up. Morrison, the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and college co-player of the year with Redick, was known for his free-thinking ideas and appreciation of radical views. 
Etan Thomas was traded from the Washington Wizards to the Minnesota Timberwolves last week. Thomas, a friend of Zirin’s, is an example of athletes getting a chance to possibly be political when they play for a D.C. team.

“I think so because Abe Pollin, who is unfortunately in ailing health tends to be progressive. His son, Robert Pollin is a professor and one of the leading left-wing economists in the United States, and it certainly helps to be in D.C. Etan Thomas has some powerful friends, he was there with his wife and kids at the White House Easter egg roll, and the Wizards like that too: a very popular president invites one of the players to the Easter Egg roll. That’s great so you’re able to parlay sort of official politics as entertainment and I think it gives Etan some cover to do the work he does whether in prisons or against the death penalty.

Sportswriter Dave Zirin is the author of four books and his column, Edge of Sports, appears on Sports Illustrated’s website. He is the host of XM satellite’s weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio.

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  1. paulmbanks says

    How come I wasn’t invited it to the White House Easter Egg roll?

  2. H. Jose Bosch says

    There’s nothing wrong with professional athletes pushing for certain political causes. The problem I have is that so many celebrities make their voices heard and then rely on their fame to do the rest. An athlete can do all the talking he or she wants but if it isn’t backed up by action, then it rings hallow. Personally, I’d love to see athletes stick to sports, do a little activism here and there for their favorite cause and then use their pull and well-invested money to push for real change when their careers are over.

    I think it’s asking too much for an athlete to play at the top of his game and, at the same time, put all of his or her efforts into some social issue of their choice. Community service is a wonderful way for athletes to make a difference in people’s lives and some athletes can do a million things at once and still be a top athlete. But not all of them.

    I say we should push athletes to do more when their careers are over and they have the time and (hopefully) the means to make real change.

  3. paulmbanks says

    Like Michael Jordan…he was infamous for standing for really nothing but marketing his own crap. As great a player as he was on the court, he’s just as hollow a human being off it. With his clout, imagine what would happen on a given issue if he had put himself out there for it?

  4. Bruce Weber says

    Yeah my players all had debates leading up to the election last fall. it was pretty cool. And then on the day Obama was inaugurated we destroyed Ohio St. at home so that was nice…

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