Chapter 4: Convincing Discourses

4.2.1 Athletes on the stand (argument from experience)

Thomas Lundin

English 102, September 2020

Growing up I have seen how athletes are some of the most important people in the world. They were heroes to everyone including me growing up. Athletes have one of the biggest platforms of any other celebrity. Growing up athletics was such an important part of many kid’s lives including mine. I idolized many professional athletes and have always enjoyed watching them compete. Though as a kid you never really see them in real life or them as an actual person. Athletes seemed like characters in a movie where you would only see them play and compete and they would almost disappear. Growing up I started to see a person behind the athlete. They all had their thoughts and ideas and beliefs when it came to the everyday world. Now I have realized how powerful an athlete can be when it comes to political issues. I have seen how powerful and influential an athlete’s platform can be. They can communicate an entire message without saying a single word. Watching these athletes compete I have been able to see how they can speak through the Tv and communicate with everyone across the globe.   

This body language and even choice of apparel have allowed athletes to take any stance. As many say a picture can paint a thousand words. Athletes have been able to achieve this form of communication a whole argument from being on screen for only a few seconds. I have seen the athletic world create a way to protest and communicate without taking away from the game itself. I can see that a language has been developing long before I was born, and I have learned much about the beginnings of this form of communication. This way of communicating has become a crucial and important way for athletes to speak up and show support for something they believe in. The athletic world created its own form of protesting. This way of communication with the world during competitions has allowed for the sporting events to continue while the athletes are still able to express their views with the world.   

As seen in recent months I know that protesting is a way for everyone to speak up and talk about the need for change. Though it is much easier for athletes to get the attention than a regular group of people. I remember during the 2012 Olympics in London; Gabby Douglas was in the news for days because people thought she was upset during the national anthem. Her not smiling caused an outcry of people to think she was being disrespectful, and it lasted for days. That one incident shows me how powerful an athlete is and what they can accomplish. Knowing that these athletes have forms of protest that can be the simplest thing and get media attention for days or maybe even weeks. This shows that because athletes are so influential and role models to the general public, they can achieve so much attention by doing a small thing.   

In the past few months, I have seen the simplest action speak a thousand words. That one action is taking a knee. Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest the inequality in the United States. A single action so small and seems so insignificant ended his career. Even though he was the first he would not be the last and for months was the main topic of the sports world. As I would flip through ESPN you would see some reference to the knee. More and more Athletes started doing the same thing. This single stance became the most memorable thing of the whole movement and is still prevalent today.  Taking a knee has had a resurgence in popularity among many athletes all protesting the same thing. The language that they have created has been so popularized that is a symbol of a movement. Today I will struggle to turn on a sport where an athlete is not taking a stand and with the organization supporting them, they have been able to do more. Some of my favorite athletes have done many different things in the last few months. From wearing a mask that has the name of a victim from police brutality or even on a jersey. This subtle way of communication has become a common form of protest in the professional sports world. I have seen this language from the major sports of basketball, football, and baseball down to some less popular sports such as swimming and tennis.   

Many athletes also protest by wearing to express what they stand for. Just this past month watching the US open I watched Naomi Osaka protest throughout the competition she wore masks that had names of victims of police brutality on them. Her mask was a way to protest through an athlete’s attire. Many athletes protest through stances or clothing choice, but it is not the only way. In more recent news while watching the World Championships for swimming, I remember seeing two swimmers refuse to stand on the podium with a fellow swimmer. I was puzzled and didn’t understand why at first but with story after story coming out after I learned that they were protesting the World Anti-Doping Agency. The swimmer who they would not stand with had been accused of doping and had missed his past two mandatory test dates and was never penalized.   

The image to the right shows just a few ways that athletes have protested different issues through the years. There is many more with many different meanings and ways to do it but here a few that show a wide spectrum of language of an athlete’s voice in terms of speaking out and how they did it. It also describes how the athletes were able to achieve them with either wardrobe, body language or any other way they felt was needed to get their point across. The timeline starts with a major protest in the civil rights movement on the world stage. Tommie Smith and John Carlos held up their fist in protest of the treatment of the African American community in the United States. The next event shows how Andrew Hawkins was able to use apparel to protest police brutality. The next event was on the same stage in the NFL but with a different look but the same intent. This was when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee. The next is another podium protest but this was against the World Anti-Doping agency for not acting against a fellow athlete. The next two events are recent and show how the leagues are also supporting these athlete protests. The Bucks an entire NBA team held a walkout after the shooting of James Blake at the Hands of the Police and the other being Naomi Osaka who wore masks with the names of victims of police brutality. They both had the same intend but were done in drastically different ways. From the timeline you can see how the world of athletics can protest in so many ways for a multitude of different issues and how different athletes have achieved it.  

The world of athletics has allowed its athletes to create a language to protest. They can speak through their actions and be just as inspiring or forceful as any statement. These athletes recognize the platform that allows them to do this and use it to help speak up about issues that they see in the world. I have seen so many different athletes communicate to the public in so many ways to protest what they see fit. This way of communication has allowed athletes to get more attention than any speech they could give. The athletic world has developed a language when it comes to protesting and it is only getting more noticeable and memorable but never less impactful and influential. They can fuel and create a movement from a single knee to a name on a jersey. 


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