Student athletes shouldn't be underestimated

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • February 25, 2016

At issue: Engaging in activism as an athlete

Our take: Sports subvert stereotypes and have more to offer

A group of students at Emerson are in the process of collaborating with a national organization, One Love Foundation, aimed at educating young adults about the warnings signs of abusive relationships. The students are mobilizing to screen a film focused on the theme, open a group discussion to field questions, and schedule training sessions for student advocates. It’s the kind of entrepreneurial advocacy work you would expect from the most fervent members of political groups on campus. But it’s a movement being brought to the college by an Emerson community not often recognized or appreciated for its activism—athletes. 

One Love’s mission is fueled by the story of Yeardley Love. In 2010, Love, who was then a senior lacrosse player at the University of Virginia was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend. The foundation was established in 2010 to honor Love by working to eliminate relationship violence through education, empowerment, and activism on campus communities across the nation. 

According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women and one in four men will experience relationship violence in their lifetime. It’s an epidemic that’s too often cloaked under the cover of jerseys and helmets, and the statistics and stories like Love’s demand and deserve our attention.

Professional athletes are often in headlines for unflattering reasons: domestic abuse, DUIs, or drug use. But that’s not the full story. Over the holidays, the NBA aired anti-gun violence ads during its Christmas Day games. Stars like Steph Curry spoke out for victims in the PSA paid for by Everytown for Gun Safety(CQ), an organization specifically founded to combat the National Rifle Association. Another league, MLB, released its comprehensive domestic violence policy last summer. These initiatives show the power of players and their leagues to make a real, lasting impact on the world. 

Sports get a bad rep at Emerson because the activity is associated with stereotypes presumably most of the student body hated in high school—jocks. But our athletes are no different from any other driven, passionate, and socially conscious student. They have the same desire to affect positive change in the world; the same drive to fix the same issues that we’re concerned with. This isn’t in spite of the fact that they play sports, but rather a natural extension of it. Sports have promoted camaraderie and positivity since their creation, and have often been a platform for impactful improvements. We were recently reminded of the power of sports during the Super Bowl earlier this month. With help from Beyonce and friends, a sporting event became one of the most powerful political statements in recent memory.