Aaron Taylor: Activism in Athletics

IMG_9364Written By: Aaron Taylor | @1flight37
Defensive Back | Ball State Football
Member of Ball State Sports Link

Athletes in society are placed on a pedestal and held accountable for their actions far beyond that of regular citizens. They are highly visible figures in the public eye and a lot of their success off the field can be directly related to how the public views them.

This is something that comes with the territory on the collegiate and professional level. Administrators and coaches harp on the fact that as an athlete you are always under a microscope. This microscope can provide a platform to speak on social issues.

The University of Missouris head coachs twitter, @GaryPinkel, tweeted this photo.

The University of Missouri made national news for one of the most taboo issues in American culture — race. It’s hard to talk about, and even harder to find two people, with the same opinion on the subject.

In summary, Tim Wolfe the president of the University stepped down amidst protest by the #ConcernedStudent1950 group.

College students protest on college campuses around the nation everyday but there is one key difference that affected this issue — the Mizzou football team joined the fight last fall.

Players decided they were not going to play in their upcoming game against Brigham Young University unless the university met the protestor’s demands. Within 72 hours, Wolfe resigned.

The power of athletics took a stand and made an impact in a social issue that had nothing to do with sports. How can this be and why does this matter?

This matter for the sole reason — racist or not — you are no longer attacking the University’s morality.

When athletics are involved, especially at a school in the SEC where football is king, you are attacking the institutions pocket. Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 71,168 available seats. Ticket pricing for any given home game ranges from $20- $150.

On average that is $81 a ticket, this information is based on games from 2015. From ticket sales alone Missouri can bring in up to $5,764,608 in revenue each game. When you get athletics involved, you get money involved and in todays world money is power.

In professional sports, activism is often used as a means to boost an organization’s public relations agenda. Athletes have foundations supporting causes to end cancer and raise awareness for domestic violence.

The Warrick Dunn Charities are a nonprofit which helps build homes for single mothers in the Atlanta area. But they do little to support racial issues and other taboo topics that may be controversial to the organizations image. The national associations for professional athletics are no dummies.

They would never allow an athlete, someone who represents their organization play with the houses money. Any attempt to speak out on controversial issues not sanctioned by the organization can cost an athlete his/her job.  Topics that have real social impact cause division in fan bases and bring painful social issues to a place where people come to escape it.

Missouri showed us the power of athletes to affect change in a social environment.

a3eda3d01e874cf7a2dc7dfabc3c5ab5-a3eda3d01e874cf7a2dc7dfabc3c5ab5-0-1737If amateur athletes have this much power then how much would a well-informed professional speaking out against social injustice impact our community? The question is whether or not it is morally wrong from someone with that much influence to look the other way.

With this much power comes responsibility. It is morally wrong to stand by and allow something to happen when you have the power to change it.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

The organizations, as well as the individuals, are responsible for the state of the situation. Just like a politician can make change through passing a bill; any amateur or professional organization can instill change through activism.


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