Over the last several years, sports have taken on the role of being a political platform for athletes, using their likeness to get a message across. Sports are seen everywhere, and these messages get out rather quickly and have a huge impact on the world, specifically the younger generation. “It’s great that athletes are using their platforms for good and getting a positive message across,” says Shaikou Sow.
Aside from it being a platform, sports are also seen as an escape from the real world to those with no direction in life. “I have some friends who don’t have the best living situations or don’t live in the best environments but use sports as a way to forget about all of that,” says Shaikou Sow.
For most African American boys, basketball and football are the two sports that they look towards the most due to the large black profile in those sports. In basketball in particular, a lot of top players we see overcame hardships and beat incredible odds to get to where they are. Before LeBron James was winning championships and became the face of the National Basketball Association (NBA), he and his mother were looking relentlessly for a place to stay at a young age.
“LeBron’s story is probably the best one that I’ve ever heard. Just coming from poverty, not having a father figure in his life to becoming one of the most, if not the most influential man in basketball just goes to show how hard work pays off”, says Shaikou Sow. LeBron’s influence on the younger generation runs deep as you can see many kids wearing his signature shoes and Nike gear.
In Football, we see African Americans breaking barriers every year in the National Football League. A sport that was once dominated by whites now sees roughly 70% of their players be of black descent, according to nbcnews.com. The quarterback position is the most important position in football and the shift in play at this position has much to do with more black athletes being drafted at this position. Of the last six AP NFL Most Valuable Player winners, three of them were of black descent. Before this, Steve McNair was the only African American quarterback to win the Award.
Kids from all over want to be like Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes, black quarterbacks who have taken over the league due to their insane throws and electrifying plays. All three of these players have also used their platforms to help those who aren’t as fortunate as them.
LeBron James used his platform to build a school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio for underprivileged kids. The school is an elementary school which opened in 2018 and will soon teach kids in middle school as well. Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans has done some great deeds to give back as well, giving his game check to stadium workers who were affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, as well as helping first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact of sports on the younger generation goes even further back than now and has been happening for a long time. A lot of people have looked at Allen Iverson as a legend for how he was able to break a barrier in the NBA, wearing corn rows and loud clothing to games. Today, seeing how much fashion has had an impact on the league, we can look at Iverson as a pioneer.
Looking back now, 2020 was a hectic year for athletes and the younger generation. That year included the “I Can’t Breathe” movement which stemmed from the horrible death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, as well as people asking for the arrest of the officers who killed Breonna Taylor in her sleep. Since the NBA season was restarting, the NBA came together and decided to have “Black Lives Matter” on the courts and players would kneel during the anthem. These decisions caused a national uproar but had brought attention to the issues.
Now, sports will continue to have an everlasting impact on our generation. The impact that the big stars have is infinite, and more kids are looking to these sports as an escape.