OPINION: College athletes using their platform is a good thing

Nick Saban participates in a Black Lives Matter march with several other Alabama student-athletes on Aug. 31. (Keely Brewer/The Crimson White)Nick Saban participates in a Black Lives Matter march with several other Alabama student-athletes on Aug. 31. (Keely Brewer/The Crimson White)

Stephen Duke, Correspondent

College football got under way over the weekend, with mostly Group of Five (American, Conference USA and Sun Belt are the three conferences of the group playing) taking the field. We also saw one of our fellow Ohio Valley Conference foes, Eastern Kentucky, take the field against Conference USA’s Marshall. One thing we saw among the games this weekend, however, was much bigger than football.

Recently, we have seen a lot of athletes, both at the college and professional ranks, talk about the injustices that minorities face in our nation. From Lebron James to Nick Saban, many have spoken out about the injustices, and the changes that need to be made in order for this nation to be great. Saturday, we saw Eastern Kentucky players and coaches wearing shirts that said, “Say their names”, in reference to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others.

I remember another college athlete using his platform of playing college football. Florida Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow used his platform in college in a way that reflects who he is as a person today. I remember watching the National Championship for the 2008 season, better known as the 2009 FedEx BCS (Bowl Championship Series) National Championship. I remember seeing his eye black during the game. It showed a famous Bible verse, John 3:16.

In his testimony he shared with people, Tebow later learned that because of him using his eye black to display a Bible verse, 94 million people Googled John 3:16 throughout the game. In a playoff game in the NFL, played exactly three years to the date from that National Championship game, it was referenced during the game, and another 91 million people searched for that verse.

What does that have to do with today? Well, it shows college athletes using their platform has always been prevalent, especially in college football. Now that social media has become much bigger than it was in early 2009 or even in 2012, in the case of Tebow, we see so many athletes taking a stand.

I’ve heard many people say they shouldn’t, but I feel that college athletes have an excellent opportunity to bring about change. I’ve seen many college students, not just athletes, use their platforms locally to bring awareness to the injustices that are rampant in our nation and world. I’ve even used my own.

In my younger days, I played football. I played baseball for a couple years. I even ran track in high school. What I saw among all those sports was that we were always a big family. It didn’t matter who we were or where we came from or even what problem we may have had with one another. We always came together to work out our differences and worked to achieve a common goal. I’ve seen many athletes say it’s a brotherhood, and I can attest to that.

One of the many things I’ve noticed these athletes talk about is love. They talk about us coming together, just like teammates in a locker room, to achieve a common goal: bringing about change. As someone who works in student ministry, I did a series on what is known as the sin of partiality. In our lives today, that can be known as racism. We tend to want to distance ourselves from those who appear differently than us. However, we are called to love all people, regardless of appearance, what they’ve done to us, or anything else that may hinder us from doing so.

I say that to say we have to do better. We have to be listening to those who are constantly looked down upon because of the color of their skin. We have to do what we can to see how we can help. Most importantly, as I said in the summer through that series, we have to show that love to those around us, regardless of whatever boundaries society tries to put between us.

I used the locker room analogy during the summer. I mentioned how everyone comes together for that common end goal. College athletes, and even pro athletes, have a much bigger presence on social media than we do. They’re doing a great thing in using their platform in an effort to bring about change. Their efforts must challenge us to do the same; we must use our platforms locally if we want to see anything change.

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