Sports figures are our heroes. We look up to them as children, we respect them as adults, and, although their voices are only just recently being heard on a regular basis, we listen when they speak. In the past we often heard more from team owners and coaches because they were the ones meant to have a say. In some cases, they have overused this privilege by saying whatever they want instead of worrying about the perception of what they mean. Some of these owners, coaches and even athletes never stopped to consider those who bring them their money by playing in their league, association, or even on their team. Without other athletes, fans, and their teammates, they would be nothing.
Athletes often have to worry about endorsements or being fined for using their voice to let people know that they disagree with the hate that goes on in this crazy world that we live in. In the past, they have been hushed and told to mind their own beeswax. Not the ones who spew hate and get all of the attention, but the ones who unite and speak up for what they believe in. Social media and the news have become very resourceful tools in the past few years that allow our athletes to unite more and let us know there are still role models out there that children can look up to.
This list is intended to show up the hate and flash a light on those that also promote it. Here are seven sports figure villains who promoted hate and eight sports heroes that united against it.
15. Against Hate: Tommie Smith & John Carlos Stand Tall
At the award ceremony for the 1968 Olympics 200 meter, medalists Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) stood tall on the medal podium as they each held a black gloved fist up in salute as The Star Spangled Banner was playing in the background. The silver medalist Peter Norman, (who was representing Australia) was told prior to the event of their plans and chose to stand with them as they all three wore human rights badges.
The display is known as the Black Power Salute, however Tommie Smith later referred to it in his book, Silent Gesture, as a “Human Rights Salute.” Both of the medalists were suspended from the U.S. team and received death threats following their stand, but were later awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2008. This movement was also what sparked the controversy behind several sportscasters reacting in anger because the felt it was not an athletes place to demonstrate or speak their mind. Brent Mushburger was the most aggressive of those sports writers.
14. Hate: Columbia Lions Hate Runs At Least 10 Deep
In 2013, Columbia’s defensive lineman Chad Washington was arrested for aggravated harassment after using anti-Asian slurs while engaged in a altercation with an Asian student. Shortly after, the campus radio station published a photo gallery using Imgur of racist tweets between at least 10 Colombia football players that went back over a three year period. The list was compiled of racist slurs that included every possible outlet imagined. One player had tweeted about getting in trouble for calling a guy with Capris on being gay and asked “what is wrong with our society,” while others went on to use racial innuendos and jokes.
The tweets shocked and appalled the nation while they simply disappointed the University of Colombia. The university made their apologies on the students behalf in a statement made by the athletic director and football coach. They also said in the statement that they were addressing the “inexcusable behavior with the individuals involved.”
13. Against Hate: Phoenix Los Suns
For the past ten years, the NBA has upheld a Latin Nights program in which some of the teams wear special jerseys in March to celebrate Latin players throughout the Latin-American and U.S. Hispanic communities, but on Cinco De Mayo in 2010, the Los Suns jerseys took on a whole new meaning for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns (who were playing game two against the Spurs and won) donned the jerseys in protest to an immigration law passed in Arizona which was marked as the strictest of all time. The law was based off of the federal law for immigrants to carry documentation, but the law took it a surprising step further by allowing officers to detain those who are suspected of being in the U.S. illegally to be detained without any further cause or warrants necessary.
The Suns owner, Robert Sarver, made a statement insisting that “the federal government’s failure to deal with illegal immigration resulted in a flawed state law.” Parts of the law were dropped and the remaining sections were fought in court until a judge dismissed the challenges in 2015.
12. Hate: Floyd Mayweather And Racism
Earlier this year, Floyd Mayweather went on about how racism still exists in sports today and dropped several names including those of Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor in comparing their success to himself and Laila Ali. He is definitely right about racism still playing a huge role in sports today, yet I’m not quite sure that he should be the one to talk about it.
In 2010, Mayweather posted a YouTube video with his entourage in which he went on about Manny Pacquiao and how he was going to “cook that little yellow chump” and how afterward he was going to have Pacquiao “make him a sushi roll and cook him some rice.” Unfortunately, Mayweather didn’t check his facts before his rant or else he would know that sushi is Japanese, not Filipino. Not only that, but he also came out wearing the colors of Mexico’s flag and a sombrero on Cinco De Mayo against Mexican-American boxer Oscar De La Hoya. Come on Mayweather, we know racism still exists in sports because you are one of the few sports figures who have both told and shown us this.
11. Against Hate: St. Louis Rams “Don’t Shoot” Gesture
In 2014, the shooting of Michael Brown shocked the nation and sparked protests in Ferguson, Missouri where witnesses claimed that Brown had his hands up when he was shot by officer Darren Wilson. Later that year, Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Steadman Bailey, Chris Givens, and Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams showed their support for the Ferguson protests by stopping just as they exited the tunnel and throwing their hands up in a “don’t shoot” gesture.
Despite law enforcements move to have the player fined by the NFL or punished by the Rams organization, both backed the players freedom of speech. The St. Louis County Police Chief claimed that an apology was received by the Rams chief operating officer who says this was not the case and that all he did was express his regret if the player’s demonstration was received negatively by law enforcement officers.
10. Hate: Is There Anyone That John Rocker Doesn’t Hate?
John Rocker is a retired relief pitcher who really does seem to hate each and every individual except himself. His most famous rant was from an interview with Jeff Pearlman who did an interview with Rocker back in 2000 when he was still playing for the Atlanta Braves. Pearlman spent the day with Rocker as he proceeded to insult every minority possible. He made comments about Asian women drivers, the workers who dress up at Disney World and even about his black teammates. He also talked about his resentment for New York and having to take a train surrounded by a variety of people, all of which Rocker disdains.
Since then he has gone on to write his views of how the Obama administration handled the Ebola outbreak, gave his opinion on George Zimmerman’s case, and went on a vicious rant over being picked up late by his associate.
9. Against Hate: Olympian’s Unite For LGBT Rights In Sochi
The Sochi Olympics are remembered for two reasons, one being the awful hotel conditions and the other reason was the LGBT protests that were threatened by athletes from around the globe because of Russia’s anti-gay laws set in place to ban gay propaganda. Unfortunately, the athletes were shut down before the games began, but many had made their point beforehand like Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff who planned to “rip on Putin’s a**” and give a six figure salute or Cheryl Maas who proudly showed Putin with her rainbow and unicorn gloved hand held straight into cameras after getting her scores.
However, the biggest statement came from the 52 former and current Olympians who called on Russian Authorities to rethink the propaganda law and who criticized the International Olympic Committee for not doing more about it. This urged the IOC to include an anti-discrimination clause to its host city contract that started with bidders for the 2022 Olympic Games.
8. Hate: Hulk Hogan
At least that is what he has told the ladies on The View and everyone else who will listen, however he seems to be trying to convince himself just as much as us. He told them that he once attended a “predominantly Afro-American church” and that he and his second wife were married by an “Afro-American minister.”
While we don’t agree with the way it came out, as no one should be filmed without their consent, it doesn’t change what was said and how hurtful it was. In his rant, he even called himself a racist as he repeatedly dropped the n-word while heatedly talking about his daughter and the boyfriend that she had at the time. Hogan recently won his second lawsuit against Gawker over the court transcript that was leaked with the rant. The court awarded him more money in the lawsuit than the site was worth and Hogan feels his win, plus his apology, shows that he is not a racist, when in reality all it proves is that Gawker shouldn’t have released footage that was illegally filmed.
7. Against Hate: Minnesota Lynx Unite For Change
In July, members of the WNBA Minnesota Lynx promoted change by all in wearing T-shirts with “Change starts with us—Justice and Accountability” on the front. On the back the shirts honored the recent loss of lives with the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, who were both shot and killed by police officers, the Dallas police shield for officers shot during the peaceful protests, and Black Lives Matter. Lynx’s player Maya Moore commented on plans to wear the shirts before game saying that “tonight we will be wearing shirts to honor and mourn the losses of precious American citizens and to plead for change in all of us.”
Four of the officers working security at the Target Center walked out and the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation commended the unknown officers for it and stated that more officers were refusing to work security at the Lynx games. Then, the Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever, and New York Liberty adopted the statement, but only with Adidas brand shirts to comply with uniform policy and were still fined.
6. Hate: Donald Sterling Promoted Hate For Years
After years of promoting hate in the form of racism, Donald Sterling finally got served. Reportedly he had attempted to turn people out of their homes in various ways for no apparent reason other than the color of their skin, their nationality, and whether or not they had kids. In fact, through the years, he has faced many lawsuits that had to do with discrimination of one form or another.
Finally, in 2014, a recording was leaked of his conversation with V. Stiviano, where Sterling was upset with her about a picture of her with Magic Johnson on Instagram. He went on a rant telling her that it is okay to spend time with, and even sleep with, black people, but not in public or to broadcast it. How crazy is that! Anyway, he was banned from the NBA, lost the Clippers, his wife and was fined. Unfortunately, it is rumored that he might be getting the wife and her money back…
5. Against Hate: Two NFL Players Unite For LGBT Right’s
“The LGBT movement is a continuation of the civil rights movement” is what Brendon Ayanbadejo had to say a year following his advocacy of gay marriage in 2012. He says that his parents interracial marriage is the reason he speaks so openly for the rights of others because had his parents met 10 years earlier than they had, they would have been barred from getting married.
He feels that same gender marriage is just another step forward for civil rights movements. In 2012, he advocated for gay marriage while he was a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and Maryland legislator Emmett Burns Jr. wrote a letter asking the team’s owner to quiet Ayanbadejo on the matter. This in turn pushed NFL player Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, to write Burns Jr. back in Ayanbadejo’s defense. It was both players last seasons playing for their teams, but Ayanbadejo has since stated that the Ravens completely backed him in his advocacy and the incident did not have an affect on his stance with the NFL or the Ravens.
4. Hate: Marge Schott – Uniformed Hate
Marge Schott was the general partner, president, and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds until 1999 when her words finally got the best of her and she was forced to sell her team by the league. She had already been suspended twice for her foul language and racist remarks. Schott spoke out against all minorities, kept a collection of swastikas, and was even quoted as saying that “Hitler was good in the beginning, but he went too far” which got her a hefty fine. She called two of the highest paid players her “million dollar n******”, which is obviously incredibly offensive and appalling.
She later went on another rant against Japanese, Asian Americans, and homosexuals that got her suspended for the second time and which led to Schott being forced to sell out of embarrassment from the other partners. She still got away with over $60 million, but she donated the majority to charities before she died. This was one crazy lady who was definitely behind in times.
3. Against Hate: The Clippers – A Silent Protest Heard By Everyone
You remember Donald Sterling, right? Just a quick reminder, he was the Clippers owner on the opposing end of this list who sparked national criticism for his racist remarks in a recording leaked by his side chick. Anyway, the Clippers players were rightfully angry with their owner’s remarks and, before a playoff game, they grouped together at center court, took off their jerseys and left them there. They then preceded to warm up with inside out red shooting shirts, opting not to display the teams logo.
Throughout the game, they wore black arm or wristbands and black socks, displaying the biggest protest ever to take place before and during any sporting event. This led to other NBA teams quickly following the protest. This and threats from both players and fans to boycott future playoff games led to the swift removal of Donald Sterling from games and his eventual ban from the NBA.
2. Hate: Still Looking For An Apology From Brent Musburger
Most people know Brent Musburger as the then-71 year old sportscaster who freaked out over AJ McCarron’s girlfriend in 2014, but his story goes way deeper than just that. In 1968, when he was employed by the Chicago’s American Newspaper (which is no longer in existence), he wrote an article about two track and field Olympic medalists, who we’ve already discussed here, who chose to make a stand during their award ceremony. Although most sportscasters gave the two trouble over the demonstration, Musburger was the most aggressive sports reporter in denouncing the two athletes calling Jones “the militant black” and said that both of them were “a pair of black-skinned stormtroopers” comparing them to Nazi soldiers. He also said they were “ignoble, juvenile, and unimaginative.”
In 1988, when Jimmy the Greek was fired for his racist remarks, Musburger commented that he had told Jimmy that “he had to be careful what he said on TV.” Musburger still stands behind what he said in 1968, but has called it a little harsh and has yet to apologize.
1. Against Hate: NBA Player’s Unite Against Hate And Stand For Change
In 2014, several NBA players wore “I can’t breath” T-shirts in honor of Eric Garner and his family following the video that surfaced of his death in which his last words before dying were “I can’t breath” after being put in a chokehold by a police officer. The first to wear the t-shirt was Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and shortly after LeBron James and other players began wearing the shirts. This statement was the second silent protest made by NBA players that year, following the Clippers protest against Sterling. That year, NBA players LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul all stood together and made an impactful statement at the ESPYs as they made a call of action to end violence.
There have been numerous sports heroes being heard recently, aside from the demonstrations mentioned in this article, like Michael Jordan who has finally reached out about current issues. What is your response to athletes making a stand and calling for change? #AthletesSpeakOut if you hear them.
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