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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 25, 2024

A salute to athletes who use their platform to inspire

Aaron Rodgers’ performance on the podium postgame this past Sunday was much better than his performance on the field. For those who don’t know what I am talking about, I am specifically mentioning Rodgers’ comment denouncing an anti-Islamic slur yelled during a moment of silence to honor the victims of the attacks in France before Green Bay took the field. In a time where the lives of athletes are often dissected and ridiculed due to many negative off-field incidents, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the positive actions of many athletes in the face of tragedies and bigotry.

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most popular and well-known person in the state of Wisconsin, and as Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Rodgers took that message to heart when he called out the rude bigot who interrupted a sincere moment of silence with a slur. He very well could have stayed silent on that issue, but instead he articulated an important message in a well-thought out and astute manner, emphasizing that “It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today as a world.” People listen to Aaron Rodgers, and he knows this. For him to go on record and confront an issue with a thoughtful response shows how he is using his position as a star athlete to spur positive change.

To me, this is the most important aspect of sports. While sports at their root are a form of entertainment, their popularity means that people will hear the important messages being conveyed outside of the game. These can cause real, important change due to the status of the athlete saying or demonstrating them. Kevin Durant, another prominent athlete you may have heard of, illustrated this in his memorable MVP speech a few years ago. No, I’m not talking about “The real MVP” line. Instead it was this that struck me even more: “Basketball is just a platform in order for me to inspire people and I realize that.” The self-awareness KD displayed with that one line really hit me. To know how important your actions can be is one thing, but to live them is a whole different story, and Durant, true to his speech, has used his position to truly inspire with kind acts, such as his generous donations to the victims of disastrous tornadoes that hit Oklahoma a few years ago.

Sports can serve as a distraction from tragic events, but can also serve as a platform for athletes to truly shine. In the wake of the horrific events that took place in Paris, Rodgers shone brightly by reminding the public what truly leads to those kinds of tragedies. One needs not look back far for other bright moments from athletes. Several weeks ago, terrible flooding struck the state of Louisiana and LSU running back Leonard Fournette seflessly auctioned off a signed jersey to raise relief money (the fact that he had to get permission from the NCAA to do so is a different and very upsetting story). Just last week, the football players at Missouri rose up and sent a message to highlight racism on their campus. While one can agree or disagree with the severity of what actually happened at Missouri to lend to the protests, the message still stands: Athletes have the ability to make positive change.

While the images of many athletes take a hit with players like Greg Hardy, who commit heinous acts that also deserve our time and attention, most athletes throughout every sport convey positive and influential messages. From Lebron James to Rodgers to Fournette to Lionel Messi, athletes throughout the world make an impact by using their sport as a true platform to inspire, as KD once said. To the many athletes like Rodgers, who strive to use their power to make the world a better place, thank you for doing what you do, and continue your greatness both on and off the field.

What did you think of Aaron Rodgers' comments? Email Rushad at machhi@wisc.edu and share your thoughts.

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