An Open Letter to Professional Athletes
Have you ever sat down to watch a movie you knew nothing about? That’s what my husband and I did yesterday when we watched Hidden Figures. This was a last minute decision when we realized the football game I really wanted to watch was not being carried where we live. But, wow, how appropriate given the events of the day. I won’t ruin the movie, but when Kevin Costner’s character said, “Here at NASA, we all pee the same color” I knew I needed to write this article.
I have listened and watched all the controversy surrounding the #takeaknee campaign. My biggest concern is this – your point is getting lost in controversy.
I’m fearful that efforts intended to deal with race relations have become an anti-Trump campaign. It feels like the focus is on the controversy – to kneel or not to kneel, and on what team owners are saying. The message seems to be getting lost in the method.
There is a BIG reality that Black, Muslim, and many other people face racism that is just plain wrong. I can say I know, but I can’t truly understand. I don’t walk in their shoes. Being Jewish, I have faced anti-Semitism. My family faced a great deal of intolerance that drove my son to attempt suicide three times because he is different. As a result, I became an advocate for change. I’m writing to encourage athletes to figure out what actions can be taken, other than and/or beyond kneeling during the National Anthem.
You have a HUGE platform and you have accomplished step one – awareness. I tend to be a do’er, so, I want the focus of this article to be on the actions any professional athlete can take to further this movement. And yes, we need a movement toward equality. You can spend money, but you don’t have to. My suggestions can all be implemented by simply using your voice. If you need help, message me and I’ll show you how you can get these things done:
Visit. Go to schools, non-profits, police departments, or create a gathering someplace. Show up and speak about your passion to create change and start a dialogue on how participants can enact change.
Speak. If you are not comfortable doing that, I’ll help you get a coach or connect you to someone who can tell your story. You can go small by speaking in classrooms.
Practice what you preach and be seen doing it. On the field, shake hands with players who are different, post photos of you with teammates who are different by race, religion – anything, just be seen practicing diversity.
Lend your voice to a cause. There are many nonprofit organizations, large, small, and grass roots that are out there doing amazing work to combat racism and intolerance. They often struggle financially to get their programming funded. Lend your name to help them raise money and/or awareness. These groups can raise significant funds through auctions of memorabilia, experiences, or a personal appearance by you.
Use social media to start a positive dialogue. Post pointed questions. Challenge your followers to take positive action and post about it. Provide a reward by holding a random drawing for people who show themselves making a difference. Need help? I’ll connect you to one of the many reputable companies I know of.
Promote or create scholarships. There are many scholarships out there that require students to take specific race or religion courses.
Create a contest or support an existing one. Many cities have contests such as Cleveland’s Maltz Museum “Stop The Hate Youth Speak Out” essay contest that requires kids to tell their story. Anyone can enter to win $100,000 in prizes.
Blog. Either do regular writing on your own social platform, or contribute to forums such as the Players Tribune, where athletes share their personal experiences. Tell your story and provide hope to people who need it.
I’m not just speaking (actually writing) to hear myself. I’ve engaged in or done every one of those points above either with other athletes, through a nonprofit I used to run, or by the way I live my life every single day.
If you have not seen the movie Hidden Figures, I recommend you watch it. It was truly inspiring, but unfortunately also made my heart hurt in so many ways. I’m sad that it took about 50 years for these Black women to be recognized, but I’m thrilled that it finally happened. We, as people and as a country, have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. People need to look at people as people – not as a black person or a white person. We need to educate and help those who need help.
Athletes, you have made it clear that you want to make a difference. Let’s stop focusing on the controversy and let’s focus on fixing the problem. I saw an article where the NFL said that there isn’t time to do something this season – bullshit. (My kids know that when I swear, I mean business). It’s time to put your words into action. You can do this. You can have an impact. If you don’t think that you can, message me and I’ll show you how.
Thanks for listening.