The Power of College Athletes’ Voices

Yesterday the University of North Carolina won the men’s NCAA college basketball championship by beating University of Illinois 75 to 70. Here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the home to this incredible group of athletes, just about every one is ecstatic! I watched them all season on TV and a few times in person at the Dean Dome. (UNC’s stadium) I’ve been in North Carolina just four years now and I am officially been converted to a college basketball fan. It’s really amazing. The fans here are wonderful, intelligent, passionate, diverse, and caring people.

After a few big games we’ve had some impromptu street parties, the media likes to call them riots, all over our small downtown. Last night after Carolina won was no exception. Yet this time the numbers of people attending were higher and so were the number of injuries. Fortunately, there apears to have been no fatalities. Some how over fourty five thousand people were able to get together and celebrate in THEIR OWN PUBLIC STREETS with great JOY!

From my perspective these events were more than just basketball parties. They were group therapy. Major simultaneous release of energy and pent up emotion. Expressions of joy and freedom. These are all qualities of other similar events that occur but ostensibly for very different reasons. How can winning a national college basketball championship inspire tens of thousands of college students and other fans to take to the streets but thousands of dead American solders, dead Iraqi men, women, and children can not inspire the same number of people to take to the streets in downtown Chapel Hill?

I realize there is some overlapping of participants. I am one. I went to the March 19 Bring Them Home Now anti-war rally in Fayetteville, NC and the Carolina Tar Heels Championship street party. Yet some how I didn’t recognize the same faces or voices at both events.

I’m sure ya’ll have lots of answers to my question in bold but another series of actions could change it. College athletes could engage in political protest. For example the young basketball players who are so idolized and revered could make statements of peace. An good historic example is 1968 at the Mexico City Olympic games Tommie Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads, raised their black gloved fist, and were shoeless as they accepted the gold and bronze metal. This was a non-violent and effective way of drawing attention to the fact they had a message. Later they told the media, who was undoubtedly curious, what there message was.

Quote from the article Civil Disobedience by John Gettings:
“Smith later told the media that he raised his right, black-glove-covered fist in the air to represent black power in America while Carlos’ left, black-covered fist represented unity in black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. The black scarf around Smith’s neck stood for black pride and their black socks (and no shoes) represented black poverty in racist America.”

The student athletes of UNC could do something as simple as these young men did in 1968. What is preventing them? Their lack of concern? Their fear of political reprisal? Fear of loosing a big NBA contract?

I humblly request that all student athletes through out the United States and the world contemplate their concerns and think about the unique power of voice they have. There is so much attention being payed to you by the media. Why not give back to the fans and the world by opening the minds of the world through non-violent action? A practical example of action: Speak out publicly about an issue you care about!