Opinion: Disruption is necessary

Amanda Paniagua is a graduate art history major. Contact her at azabudsk@kent.edu

Amanda Paniagua is a graduate art history major. Contact her at [email protected]

Amanda Paniagua

As of late, I haven’t been able to get enough American football. In particular, I have been all about the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, I know they did not win the Super Bowl, after what is being considered by some the worst call possible. Beyond all that which can be debated in another forum, I am more interested in calling attention to the amazing genius of players like Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman off the field.

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you can’t help but appreciate a true rebel. Rebels get shit done. Hell, the term rebel is relative to which side you root for, but I digress. A few years back I was lucky enough to hear Dave Zirin, a sports commentator, speak at a conference. He gave me a new appreciation for the power of an athlete –particularly that of an activist athlete.

He introduced me to the life and work of Muhammad Ali. I was familiar with the name and the fact that he is considered one of the world’s greatest boxers of all time. But Zirin really broke down the staunch activism of Ali for me like how and why he refused to fight in Vietnam.

Zirin recently penned an article about the close, albeit lesser known, friendship Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared. It got me thinking about the legacy of activism that has been and continues to be present in athletics. In 1968, Olympic medal winners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, threw their fists up in a Black Power salute to show solidarity with the struggle for Black liberation in the United States.

While some have called both Sherman and Lynch loaded pejoratives that I do not care to repeat in print, I will say that their individual interactions with the media and press have been nothing short but disruptive — and in a good way. Back in December of last year, Everett Glenn, asked in a Huffington Post article why the same athletes adorning shirts in support of #BlackLivesMatter had not begun to criticize the sports industries in which they work.

Sarah Jaffe penned an amazing essay over at The Week, which began to unravel why Lynch’s refusal to speak to the media is a very clear method in which an athlete can begin to control the conditions of their employment. She says, “Lynch may be alone in his actions at the moment, but it seems fairly clear that in following the letter of the NFL’s law — showing up to the press conference, and verbalizing an answer to a question — he’s demonstrating that he, not Roger Goodell or anyone else, controls the conditions of his labor.”

I don’t know about you, but that sure as hell seems like a very clear form of disruption that demands attention and reconsidering the power an athlete has when they dare to disrupt.

Contact Amanda Paniagua at [email protected].