Voices

This Racial Justice Group Declared November 'Athletes and Activism Month' in Solidarity Against Trump's Agenda

Color of Change aims to empower athletes to use their platform to activate a new generation of activists one year after the election.

This is an opinion piece by Jade Magnus Ogunnaike and Enchanta Jackson, Organizing Co-Directors at Color Of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization.

In September, four past and present NFL players, Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, Anquan Boldin, and Torrey Smith, made a thoughtful and peculiar request--they asked Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner to designate November as Racial Equality and Criminal Justice Reform Month. They envisioned a gorgeous month rooted in advocating for criminal justice reform, visiting brothers and sisters in prisons, and using their high visibility to call attention to the broad injustices faced by black people in the United States. But, the NFL never agreed to this month.

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And now, as Donald Trump tweets, as reconciliatory meetings between NFL owners and players go poorly, as the owner of the Houston Texans' call players on his team "inmates", and as Colin Kaepernick still goes without a job in the NFL; we have done what Roger Goodell would not. Color Of Change has officially declared November "Athletes and Activism Month."

As a new generation of athletes continues to speak out against injustice, we want to go even further in both supporting and celebrating the power of athletes and activism during a November month of on and offline actions in support of athletes at all levels, speaking out in service of equity.

Throughout history, sports have played a pivotal role in shaping our culture and our consciousness. Whether it's a fall Sunday afternoon, a winter Friday night, or sixteen days every four years in the summer, sporting events are often a time that we all gather as a community to cheer on the people that play for our favorite team, country, or school. As much as we remember tremendous feats of athleticism, we also remember moments of courage when we saw people we admire use their platform to empower and inspire us.

As a new generation of athletes continues to speak out against injustice, we want to go even further in both supporting and celebrating the power of athletes and activism during a November month of on and offline actions in support of athletes at all levels, speaking out in service of equity.

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A common misconception is that Colin Kaepernick stands alone as an athlete who is deeply critical of systems of oppression. But the truth is that from Muhammad Ali to Serena Williams; black athletes have long used their platforms to speak truth to power. Most recently, Color Of Change partnered with black Lives Matter Global Network Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors and Seattle Seahawks defensive end, Michael Bennett to hold police who brutalize black people accountable.

Throughout the month of November, we will continue to provide various ways to hold decision-makers accountable.

This partnership was triggered after Michael was attacked by several police officers when leaving the Mayweather-McGregor fight in Vegas. Two officers targeted Michael after mistaking a loud sound for gun fire--and one of the officers actually proceeded to hold a gun to Michael's head and threatened to "blow his head off." Color Of Change provided a means to hold the Las Vegas Police Department accountable--and over 68,000 of our members joined with Bennett in order to demand justice from the Las Vegas Police Department.

Throughout the month of November, we will continue to provide various ways to hold decision-makers accountable--from the Las Vegas Police Department to Wayne County Prosecutor, Kym Worthy, whose district houses the second largest amount of young people sentenced to live the rest of their lives in a prison cell.

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During "Athletes and Activism Month", we are also asking our members and the public at large, to submit #WhyWeProtest videos--uplifting the very real reasons behind athlete protest. And over Thanksgiving weekend, we will provide discussion guides for our #Food4Thought series for everyday folks to have tough conversations with their families around some of the most polarizing issues of the day--over-criminalization of black folks, money bail, and the right to protest.

We must never lose sight of the salient forces behind athlete protest--the deeply unjust systems of oppression that force black folks into prison cells, and unable to live their fullest, most vibrant lives. And while calculated detractors continue to devalue the very real reasons behind these powerful acts of protest, Color Of Change will continue to partner with athletes to not only amplify their criminal justice reform demands; but continue our long-term work of decriminalizing black people during Athletes and Activism month. Until justice is real.

If you feel that the NFL players should have the right to engage in activism without fear of backlash from team owners or political figures then sign this petition from racial justice organization, Color of Change. By showing your support, you're telling the NFL to create a player's platform that will protect their right to protest and advocate for racial equality through criminal justice reform.

Color of Change also just launched an effort in support of athletes stepping up for their beliefs. Check out their #superpowerchange campaign and consider standing in solidarity with athletes risking it all by standing up to bigotry and hatred.