Being a gifted athlete comes with a lot of pressure. Pressure to make that winning basket, goal or touchdown. Pressure to exceed, to be extraordinary. Pressure to hold yourself to a higher standard in everything you do and more. Add on to all of that the new pressure of maintaining a positive reputation, not only in person but also with the media and on social media.
During the past years, athletes have used their influence to have a wide-spread impact regarding social movements. Speaking out and sharing your opinion was once frowned on as an athlete, now it’s expected. Whole teams and even conferences are getting together to spread their message.
An article by Shannon Ryan for the Chicago Tribune talks about the different teams and individuals who have gone above and beyond to speak out. Lebron James, Dwayne Wayde, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony spoke at the ESPY Awards Show about using their voice to speak up, explore issues and renounce all violence. The Los Angeles Rams walked out of the tunnel with their hands up after Michael Brown was killed. While many NBA stars wore hoodies after Trayvon Martin’s death.
More recently athletes, and the sports world as a whole, have used social media to speak out against Trump’s immigration ban. Sports Illustrated published an article detailing multiple athletes and conferences disapproval of the ban.
Oklahoma City Thunder’s player Enes Kanter:
US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad:
Both the NBA and MLS have given statements against the ban and are eager to learn how this could affect some of their players.
On the other spectrum, there are some athletes who have yet to speak out even when asked. Mohamed Sanu a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons did not want to talk about the ban, instead, he wanted to focus on the Super Bowl. Reporters were especially interested in hearing Sanu’s input because he is a Muslim. His answer, “I’m not really here to talk about my religious beliefs. I’m here to play football”. Understandable.
Sanu’s Twitter is strictly football and his horoscope and for good reason. As mentioned in an article by Michael Rosenburg for Sports Illustrated, Sanu would not have been asked these questions had it not been for his religion. He was at the press conference because he was going to be playing in the Super Bowl not because he is Muslim.
There are some who choose to use their voice and speak out and there are others, like Sanu, who want to wait for the right moment. Regardless of the situation picking the ideal moment is the most important decision. Someone can say all the right things but if it is said too early or too late it may not do any good.