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An Athlete Task Force

ericshainock's picture

The ESPYS have always given athletes a reason to celebrate the accomplishments of the past sports year. This year, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade stepped forward to use the ESPYs platform to address the violence occurring across our nation.

Sports have largely been about what occurs on the field or on the court. Nowadays, with the increase of social media use, athletes are stepping up off the court to lend their voices to social justice issues. These NBA players are not simply athletes. The long-standing mantra of "shut-up and play" no longer holds true. These stars have political opinions as well as thoughts on the challenges our country faces in regards to race, religion, and economics. Athletes can also speak louder and freely because they aren't as worried about signing the next big paycheck. Brand endorsements help offset any hit they take to their salaries, which gives them a voice during times when we need our athletes to be role models. This wasn't just a publicity stunt; it was four NBA superstars in the prime of their careers addressing racial issues on national television. It all started when Carmelo Anthony posted a picture on his Instagram of the Ali Summit. It showed Anthony was intent on making a difference in our world. The four NBA friends had been talking about a way they could voice an opinion, and a rep reached out to the ESPYs producers to see if the foursome could speak at the awards ceremony since they would all be in attendance. What transpired was an opening monologue that won't soon be forgotten. These NBA stars had nothing to lose and had a real opportunity to make an impact on a national stage.

Wade said it best: "It won't always be convenient. It won't. It won't always be comfortable, but it is necessary." These athletes are who our youth look up to. Sports have the ability to cut across all cultures, races, religions, and all economic classes. We, as a nation, rally around sports and these four NBA stars have stepped up to the plate and answered the call.

I have called for an Athlete Task Force - essentially, a coalition of athletes who help raise awareness and funds for communities facing tragedies. These athletes would spur positive conversations and help educate our society so that we can help reduce the number of tragedies that occur in our country. As role models, these athletes have a unique opportunity to leave an enduring legacy off the court or off the field and change the world for the better.

What's interesting is that Carmelo Anthony has recently held a summit in Los Angeles with other high-profile athletes to discuss what they can do to help out. These athletes have also held events to talk police violence and bridge the gap in the community to support love and not violence. They know they have a platform to make a difference and have the financial security to speak up to issues that are important to them. Just this week, Michael Jordan donated $2 million to police programs and the NAACP. This is coming from the athlete who famously said "Republicans buy shoes too," which shows that he didn't want to take sides because it would hurt his business objectives. Nowadays, I think star athletes see that they can advocate for causes and make a difference without fear of repercussions. Just remember, Eugene Monroe is an advocate for marijuana use for injuries, and he was made expendable this past month by the Baltimore Ravens. I wanted to give you food for thought - would love to start a conversation on this topic.

Eric Shainock works for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as an Account Representative in the Strategic Partnerships division after previously working at Intersport, a sports marketing agency. He is a 2014 graduate of the Ohio University Sports Administration Graduate Program. Feel free to reach out via email: or on Twitter: @ericshainock.

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