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Athlete Activism Matters

community philanthropy purpose social justice Jul 19, 2021

 

It’s no secret that athletes have been using their voices and the resources available to them to speak out and make an impact on the world we live in. But has it made a real difference? And why is it important for athletes to be such advocates, and activists? 

Our TWN Athlete Impact Summit featured fantastic speakers with backgrounds of advocacy and activism sharing more around these questions. Here’s what we learned. 

ACTIVISM IS VERY PERSONAL - IT WILL LOOK DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. 
When it comes to being an advocate for something, one thing proved true from all our speakers: it won’t look the same for everyone. We need those activists who can share and raise awareness about issues that matter, and we need activists who can get in there and do the hard work. It’s up to you to figure out where you can be the most effective with your support. 

“Athlete activism is deeply personal. It’s about developing relationships and understanding the depth of which you can be involved. It’s hard.”
- Suzanne Potts, National Director, Athletes for Hope University

“Players aren’t a monolith. People look to athletes to see if they can send out one big tweet or attend one gala, but let’s really look strategically at how they can individually get involved.”
- Lyzz Ogunwo, Program Director, National Basketball Players Association Foundation

“There are three things to consider: what are you passionate about, what is your skill set, and what does the world need?”
- Jeremy Casebeer, Host, 'Our Impact' Podcast, Professional Beach Volleyball Player

“Athlete activism is really about athletes using their voices, their platforms and their actions for social change, for something they believe in.”
- Tony Sanneh, Founder, The Sanneh Foundation, Former Professional Soccer Player

“I try to put out information that people can use to educate themselves and form their own opinions, rather than just pushing things on people.” 
- LaToya Fisher, Director, PeacePlayers International Baltimore, Former College Basketball Player

 

ATHLETES ARE HUMAN TOO.
Athletes are people just like us, and they experience life just as we do. They deserve to have opinions on it and they deserve to share or not share opinions just as we all do. It’s important to remember that behind some of our favorite performers and brands are human beings. 

“There’s this underlying narrative that we’re not supposed to speak on these issues and just play our sport. Stepping on the court does not give us immunity to what’s going on.”
- Chris Dickerson, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Players for the Planet, Former MLB Player

“We’re never going to intersect if we're not talking. We’re never going to have that transformative future if we don’t start working together and understanding our lived experiences.”
- Jordan Marie Daniel, Advocate, Filmmaker, Founder, Rising Hearts, Professional Runner

“There's so many things people can advocate for. You can equally be passionate about your sport and your cause.”
- Suzanne Potts, National Director, Athletes for Hope University

“We can’t let people systematically break down athletes for speaking their opinion.” 
- Tony Sanneh, Founder, The Sanneh Foundation, Former Professional Soccer Player

 

BE AUTHENTIC AND ADVOCATE FOR ISSUES YOU TRULY CARE ABOUT. DON'T BE PERFORMATIVE.
Activism is “cool” now, but holding people accountable to stay in the fight and actually create change is important. This means we need to really think hard about what we can consistently support, contribute to or fight for on a daily basis. There are many ways to be an advocate, but being performative is NOT one of them. 

“Find your own path, but you don’t have to do it all over. Figure out what really inspires you. Don’t do something just because you think it’s popular, figure out what excites you. This is one area where ‘fake it until you make it’ is NOT good.”
- Tony Sanneh, Founder, The Sanneh Foundation, Former Professional Soccer Player

“Being honest and upfront about your level of understanding and learning of the issues. If you aren't an expert on the issue, trying not to come off as an expert is key.”
- Lyzz Ogunwo, Program Director, National Basketball Players Association Foundation

“It’s about action. You can’t just sit on the side tline and throw up a post if you’re not going to make a difference in your own life to help the community. It goes back to that time and commitment.”
- Chris Dickerson, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Players for the Planet, Former MLB Player

“Talk to people who don’t look like you, talk to your neighbors, talk to your co-workers. Otherwise you’re not gonna be comfortable talking about things you don’t understand.”
- Hugh Roberts, USL Charlotte Independence Defender, Creator & Host, BackYard Footy Podcast

 

YOUR PLATFORM GOES SO FAR BEYOND JUST SOCIAL MEDIA.
You can make a difference, no matter how many followers you have or how many people you can reach. It’s not all about your social media following - platforms can and should look different for every person. Your strengths, assets, and interests all play into this. 

“So often it’s easy to show the work you’re doing but you need a buy-in. You have to cultivate those relationships. It’s not a very quick process and you have to be strategic.”
- Natasha Brison, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University 

“Ultimately though, on a lesser scale, your platform is yourself.”
- Hugh Roberts, USL Charlotte Independence Defender, Creator & Host, BackYard Footy Podcast

“You can absolutely have an impact with a smaller following.”
- Jeremy Casebeer, Host, 'Our Impact' Podcast, Professional Beach Volleyball Player

“When you want to be a meaningful advocate, you come into this space wanting to find what you’re passionate about, and then do the work.”
- Jordan Marie Daniel, Advocate, Filmmaker, Founder, Rising Hearts, Professional Runner

 

IT'S OK IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SUPPORT OR WHERE TO START.
You don’t have to jump in and be an advocate for everything you care about, just because you think you should. Take some time to really think about what you want to do, who you want to support and how you can actually do that. 

“Don’t feel bad if you have figured it out, don’t feel bad if you haven’t found your purpose, don’t feel bad if you haven’t become an advocate.”
- Jordan Marie Daniel, Advocate, Filmmaker, Founder, Rising Hearts, Professional Runner

“There are so many movements to be involved in. I don’t think it’s inauthentic to try different things, it doesn’t mean you care any less about a specific cause, it’s finding what you’re passionate about.”
- LaToya Fisher, Director, PeacePlayers International Baltimore, Former College Basketball Player

“Being true to what you’re interested in and being true to what you’re passionate about is so important. Find things that you’re passionate about, and be aware that not everyone is going to support the cause.”
- Natasha Brison, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University

 

The biggest takeaway for us was that there are so many opportunities to make a difference on something you care about. No matter who you are, you can create impact if you care and put in the work. Now that’s something to walk away with! 

Thank you to our incredible speakers who joined us to speak about the importance of athlete activism and using your platform for good, and thanks to all of those who joined us live.