2020: The Year of the Activist Jock

By: Zach Draves

There is a certain dichotomy that will be inextricably linked to the year 2020. 

We want to erase it from our collective memory, but we can never do so. 

One of the most memorable moments to come out of this tumultuous year was that sports shutdown and athletes used that downtime to become active participants in democracy. 

On March 11, sports, as did most large spectacles, was put on hold for the remainder of the spring and into the late summer due to COVID-19. 

From that moment since it was athletes who took up the mantle of leadership never seen in decades. 

They defied the dangerous and often racially coded dumb jock stereotype that permeates cultural and educational institutions and showed the world their humanity. 

Beginning with the NBA, MLB, and NFL players paying the salaries of stadium workers, filling the void left open by the greed of the owners. 

Then came the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and others that showcased in real-time the dealing effects of living in a normalized white supremacist society that’s further enhanced by racist policies and actions. 

It was then that athletes, coaches, and many within the sports world of sound mind, goodwill, and true commitment to equity, not only took to social media but to the streets and hollered out the harrowing cry for justice long overdue. 

Their actions would make the likes of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Arthur Ashe proud beyond belief. 

Furthermore, the movement was from the ground up, as all sustainable and successful movements emerge. 

Every level of sport from youth to the pros took up the cause for justice and never relented. 

In the face of a whitelash rooted in bell hooks’ definition of imperialist white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy, athletes from all walks of life stood firm and made it clear that their voices and their platforms matter, with the realization that they can be part of the solution. 

The question becomes where do we go from here?

As COVID remains a problem, as sports remain in a delicate position, and as white supremacy continues to run amok from Michigan to Washington D.C., will athletes go back to business as usual? 

Will they cave into the pressure spewed by right-wing commentators and bloodthirsty politicians? 

I think not.  

With a crucial election in Georgia next Tuesday, already we are seeing LeBron James’ More than A Vote initiative mobilizing their resources to turn voters out as they did during the general election. 

WNBA players continue to be the real leaders of athlete activism since the beginning of this new wave in 2016 and are playing a vital role in potentially changing the political dynamic of Georgia, in light of how they were treated by the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream who is not worthy of recognition and normalization. 

Collegiate athletes engaging in a variety of programs centered on the crucial intersections of racial justice, voting, LGBTQ+ equity, etc. 

Even as universities continuously exploit their labor, many are taking a profound risk by speaking up.

So this new wave of athlete activism is growing by the minute.

If this year taught us anything, it is that athletes have proven that they are more than their physicality  

They have hearts, minds, and a strong social consciousness. 

The jocks are becoming an effective political force, in other words,  Laura Ingraham’s worst nightmare. 

What is more American than that?

Zachary Draves
About Zachary Draves 117 Articles
Violence Prevention Educator, Activist, MSW Aurora University, Adjunct Professor of Social Justice and Civic Engagement at Dominican University, Aspiring Filmmaker, Alliance for Social Workers in Sports, You Can Play Project Ambassador, Co-Founder of West Chicago Suburbs Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Co-Founder of Racial and Gender Justice in Sports Project, Organizing White Men For Collective Liberation (OWMCL), Organizer Athletes and Advocates for Social Justice

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