Morning Joe! The Modern Activist Athlete, Where Have They Gone?



Good morning Rumblers,

Man what a crappy weekend we had as Bills fans huh? I was going to write a recap of this weeks game, but I don't want to re-live the nightmare. There is a lot going on with this team and the season haven't even started; train wreck.

Instead I decided to write a post that I've been wanting to write for a long time. I struggled with it, because in my head I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't conceptually visualize it on paper. It's a little controversial and you never know which way these post are going to go. But I think its an interesting discussion to have, because I'm sure the players on our team struggle with this very topic.


I always have to be very careful when I discuss topics like this. In my last "controversial post", some people wasn't too happy with mixing their sports with their politics. They felt that this wasn't the forum for such a discussion. If you are one of those people, I'm okay with you clicking away. Just keep in mind, you have players on this team that are having these discussions amongst themselves, and as a fan of this team and these players you may want to have a basic understanding of who these men are outside of football.

In my last Joe! it was a brief discussion about Mario Williams posing with guns and posting them on his Twitter site. I don't know why he posted the photos and at this point during the preseason I really don't care. To me it just seem like Mario was exercising his rights to free speech and his right to bear arms. Was he making a political statement during a time in which many people feel that the government is violating our constitutional rights? Maybe.

But that very topic had me thinking about today's athlete, and whether they are the same or different from athletes of yesteryear. I'll be making some historical references; providing some examples of today's athlete, and at the very end I'll include my opinion and I'll be asking you this question:

How Do You Like Your Athlete?

The Athlete of Yesteryear

I remember being a young kid and my father telling me stories of athletes such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Walton, Muhammed Ali, Billie Jean King, Jim Brown (amongst many others) advocating for political change. Standing up for what they believe was right and taking a stand on political issues that affect so many. I remember reading books about the 1968 Olympics and the act of solidarity that was illustrated by many of the athletes. I remember asking my dad what this picture meant, and he telling me to read for myself.



Of course, these men and women who spoke out against these political injustices, were met with major backlash, yet they still made their presences known and help pave the way for today's athlete.

The Athlete of Today

The athlete of today is a lot different from the athletes of the 60's and 70's. The athletes of today refuse to take strong political stands. Well we all know that its not because there is a lack of controversial political activity. You can turn on any left or right wing station and see that there's much to discuss. It has been said that it's primarily because of the allure of corporate sponsorship dollars that keeps the modern activist athlete from voicing their opinions. That athletes of today have more of chance to become billionaires, and don't want to lose out on all the money that can be made.

A few athletes come to mind when this topic is discussed. There was a SI article some years back in which Tiger Woods was interviewed and he was asked about his business acumen and decisions:

"It all depends on how much risk you want to take...The things I do are very conservative...I guess you don't become billionaires by making bad decisions".

This is a clear indicator that athletes like Tiger is more concerned with their image and corporate sponsorship. Do you all remember Michael Jordan reluctance to get involved in the child labor abuse and Nike's manufacture of "Air Jordans" tennis shoe? How about more recently, RGIII wanting to just be known as just a QB and not a "Black QB"?

Today's athlete is a colorless, political-less, religious-less, and opinion-less.

My Opinion

Being some one who loves money; I truly get and understand the bind that some of these athletes are in. Why would Tiger Woods risk his fortune? Why would Jordan risk his empire and/or his legacy? Why would RGIII risk his image? I guess its safer not to pick a side, because when you do you are labeled and categorized. They may feel like it doesn't make "cents" to speak out or be an advocate.

I personally feel like these athletes have an obligation to be forthright and take a stand on topics that affect so many. Athletes are able to transcend a sport in to other parts of life, using, their fame and fortune to impact the world around them. Now, more so than ever before these athletes have a stage that is bigger and brighter to really influence change. When Peyton Manning or Lebron James steps to the mic; they have people listening.

It's very convenient for RGIII to say "I just want to be a football player", or for Tiger Woods to say he wasn't black but rather he was Cablinasian.

The truth is, Woods and athletes like him are reaping the benefits of years of struggle by athletes who stuck their necks out for what was right. And in order for sports to continue to progress, we need our biggest stars to be the voice of change. We don't need them to be face-less characters. I think if our biggest stars were more like Brendon Ayanbadejo or Chris Kluwe, you would have more athletes not living in fear of coming out, and less young kids killing themselves because of their sexuality. These athletes have a great opportunity; yet they rather be a slave to the corporate dollar.

With our very own Mario Williams; I have no problem with what he did. You want to post pictures of yourself with guns, fine by me. You have a bone to pick with folks who speak out against gun control, fine? Its within your right. I just thought some of his comments was in bad taste, and his timing was bad..

How Do You Like Your Athlete?

Okay I'm off my soap box for the moment. I'm now very curious to see how you guys like your athlete. If you going to disagree with my opinion, that's fine, but I really want to know what you all think so be sure to add your thoughts.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of