Elite athletes worldwide continue to take a united and powerful stance against racism, sending a message that vilification in any environment will not be ignored and will certainly not be tolerated.
Over the past week, athletes across two major sporting codes have used social media to take a united stand against racism, in response to incidents which in decades past may have been ignored or ‘brushed off’.
Overnight, the NBA announced that former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling would be banned for life from the NBA following the release of a phone conversation where he was heard making a number of racist remarks.
Since this release, former NBA legends including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson have joined current superstars in their condemnation of Sterling, with Clippers player and President of the NBPA Chris Paul releasing a strong media statement on behalf of the Association.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 29, 2014
Since the life-ban of Sterling has been handed down, NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. has reported how serious players were taking the matter and that they were ready to boycott if they were not satisfied with the punishment handed down to Sterling.
“I heard from our players and all of our players felt like boycotting the games tonight,” Mason said.
“We’re talking about all NBA players. We’re talking about the playoff games tonight.”
These players know the power they wield in the game and much of it comes from the power of their profiles and ability to directly influence the media via their social media channels.
Within over 600 current NBA players on Twitter, several of whom have one million followers, it is becoming more common place for players to use social media to demonstrate mass support or condemnation, rather than relying solely on traditional media outlets.
Commissioner Silver….STRONG…way to take charge and protect our great league.
— THREE (@DwyaneWade) April 29, 2014
Earlier this week, we saw a similar reaction from international soccer players following an incident involving Barcelona player Dani Alves. Alves was about to take a corner kick when a banana was thrown onto the field in a taunt filled with racial connotations. In a defiant move Alves picked up the banana, peeled it and ate it showing he would not allow this style of ignorant behaviour to affect him.
“We have suffered this in Spain for some time. You have to take it with a dose of humour. We aren’t going to change things easily. If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective,” Alves said.
Players from throughout the globe followed his lead delivering a uniquely humourous yet powerful response. Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, David Luiz, Oscar, Willian and Sergio Aguero, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and Italian national team coach Cesare Prandelli and Mario Balotelli, a frequent victim of racial abuse in Italy, took to social media posing with bananas to take a stand against racism and show their support for Alves.
— Dani Alves (@WithDaniAlves) April 28, 2014
In 2013, the AFL community was faced with its own watershed moment when Adam Goodes pointed out a fan who racially abused him during a game at the MCG. In the days following the game, Goodes shone a light on the issue raising awareness that this issue is still very real in both our game and our broader society. The support he received from players throughout the league via social media was unprecedented and showed how players can help drive social change through their united voice.
More and more we are seeing players using social media to take a stand against vilification of various forms. Whether it be racism, homophobia or other forms of discrimination, players worldwide will not turn a blind eye and are sending a strong message to fans and the broader community to do the same.
The behaviour you walk past is that behaviour you condone, and players and fans are united behind this mantra.