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Do Athletes Do Enough?

I'd be willing to bet that, in the city of Atlanta, Matt Ryan could get anything he wanted. Could he use that power for something he believed in?

If that was Matt Ryan looking at you and saying, "Go get me that sandwich over there" Would you go get it?
If that was Matt Ryan looking at you and saying, "Go get me that sandwich over there" Would you go get it?

Ooh, a different, thought-provoking post for your Saturday afternoon!

One of the great things about being a college student is that it has opened my mind to thoughts and opinions outside of things I normally think about.

In one of my classes, I read a book, titled "Forty Million Dollar Slaves" by William Rhoden. It's a very thought provoking book, and one that the media and fans alike tend to avoid either due to ignorance or apathy on the subject. It provides history on black athletes, dating back to the epic fight of Tom Molineaux vs. Tom Cribb in England and going to modern day athletes such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Perhaps most recently, Bob Costas spoke out against guns during the halftime show of the Sunday Night Football game either this week or last, I can't remember.

I'm a believer in that nobody ever did anything without speaking out.

The reaction to Costas's speech was, from what I could tell, largely negative. People mocked him, people made fun of him, people questioned his intelligence, among other things.

I had friends wish and pray that he would lose his job.

Rhoden's book brings up the story of Curt Flood, an outfielder who had all the traits of Willie Mays. Flood was a rare talent; one that people saw as the next great player. But back in those days, the "reserve clause" was still in effect. The reserve clause was what existed before free agency. When a player's contract ran out, he could not seek to play for another team. He was forced to stay with the team that signed him unless he was traded or released.

This, Flood reasoned, was akin to slavery. Flood took a stand against a trade that sent him from St. Louis to Philadelphia, and that began the downfall of his career.

Flood sacrificed his own career to make a change in sports. Flood stood up for the rights of the players in 1969. In 1975, the MLB eliminated the reserve clause.

So to Bob Costas, I say, good for you. Good for you for speaking out about something you believe in, and good for you for using a medium that had millions upon millions of eyes watching. People are so quick to judge about the content of a message that they fail to recognize the underlying meaning behind it. Bob Costas, no matter what you think, is not stupid. He knew exactly what he was saying, when he said it, and how he said it.

What Curt Flood did is something that has been totally lost on society. People that stand up for something are usually quashed by the rest of society before it can ever gain steam. When a sensitive topic comes up, people are quick to judge. This is the era of the internet, where people piss and moan with every stroke of the key, like they think they're mentally superior to someone who thinks they're mentally superior to them. Topics explode on the internet, until there are so many opinions about it, the message is either gone or the meaning has dissipated.

It's like a game of telephone, back when you were a kid.

The message: "I think modern day athletes are no different than the slaves of the 1800s."

The end result: "Did you know llama banana hippopotamus crock pot Michael Turner? Also eggs"

Matt Ryan is probably the most popular athlete in the state of Georgia. That title was just recently passed on to him from Chipper Jones, I'd say, or at least when Chipper divorced his wife and started dating a playboy model.

So if Matt Ryan believed in something and spoke out about it, people would listen. He's a prominent figure in not just Georgia, but in the whole country.

Whereas if Alex Welch believed in something (which isn't possible, since he's not a real person) and stood up for it, who would listen? Nobody. That's the sad truth.

Rhoden essentially calls out Michael Jordan in his book, saying that MJ had the opportunity to stand up for whatever he wanted and, instead, did nothing. Is that wrong? No, it's not, but it provides an interesting perspective. Why is it that athletes don't stand up for something more often?

When an athlete like MJ, who could literally have run for president and won in his playing days, stands up for something, the whole planet listens. If Michael Jordan wanted equal pay for women and men in the workplace, do you think something would be done about it? Absolutely.

But if James Rael (also not a real person) stood up for the same thing in Wisconsin, cheese would be thrown at him.

So why don't high-profile athletes stand up for things they believe in? Do they not have anything they feel strongly about? Do they not want to ruin their playing careers? Do they not care about others? I'd love to be someone like Stephen A. Smith, who has access to so many athletes. I'd love to ask them these questions.

Athletes only talk now because there's a microphone shoved in their face. Where's the athlete that stands up for something because he (or she) wants to?

But wait!

There is one of those athletes.

That's right, folks, it's the athlete everyone loves to hate. I won't even say his name, because you already know who I'm talking about.

And yet, people judge him regularly. Constantly putting him down because of his playing ability, because he's "not as good" as everyone else, and also because of his beliefs, because it's not the same as some people's.

Maybe we shouldn't be asking the athletes why they're not standing up.

Maybe instead we should ask ourselves why we're not letting them.