Monday, August 4, 2008

Team USA Drops the Ball

The 2008 Summer Olympics are already marked with controversy as ever since Beijing received the news that they would be hosting the Olympics there has been public outrage on a global scale. The outrage is over China’s recent track record when it comes to human rights. Not only has China been heavily criticized for its role in Tibet but also for aiding the Sudanese government with weapons and financial aid in its military actions in Darfur.

With all of this political controversy the games have so far had a very negative shadow cast over them as people have taken it upon themselves to try and shed light on the political situation. Numerous times during the running of the Olympic torch protestors attempted to try and stop the torch and several times riots were close to breaking out. Some athletes have claimed that they will not be attending the Olympics in a show of support for Tibet and the people of Darfur.

However many of these athletes are unknown and do not possess the star power to make a real difference in the awareness level of the average viewer. This is where Team USA Basketball comes into the picture.

In both the Summer and Winter Olympics there is no team or group if people who get more publicity and are more well known on a global scale than the US Men’s Basketball team. People everywhere in the world known who Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are and the basketball tournament regularly gets more ratings than any other event during the duration of the Olympics. These players have the best chance out of anyone to speak up about any issue and more people will listen. But what do they do with their opportunity to make a difference in this world? Nothing.

In March of this year Kobe Bryant took part in a PSA (Public Service Announcement) that made clear what his feelings about Darfur were. Bryant, like many other celebrities, condemned what was happening in the Sudan and urged everyone to do everything that they could to try and help the cause. In an interview just months before the Olympics LeBron James spoke on how the injustices in Tibet and Darfur should not be allowed to continue and this was all after he refused to sign an open letter written by Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Ira Newble condemning China for its actions.

Team USA have decided that their stance on the Tibet and Darfur issues is that they’re their simply to play sports and not to be politicians. I personally feel that this is a cowardly stance and that these players have a responsibility to speak out on these pressing issues. The only reason that they don’t is for fear of losing fans and losing endorsement deals. I’m pretty sure that even if LeBron spoke out against Darfur Nike would give him his money. I don’t want to come off as saying that every player should speak out but if you are doing PSA commercials like Kobe than here is a golden opportunity to do more.

Dwayne Wade is another player who is keeping his mouth shut when it comes to the whole political aspect of the Olympics. Wade told reporters that, "We are going into uncharted waters. It's not our home. We are going to go over there and respect China. This is a business trip for us. We'll let the politics take care of itself. That's not for us to worry about. There might be some people that get into it, but that's not my focus. I'm focusing on basketball."

Wade could not be more wrong. When you go to another country and take part in a global competition it’s not a “business trip.” You are there to represent your country and not simply to be a gracious guest. However in times such as these you are not simply representing the USA but representing the human race. These athletes have a chance to change the course of history if they would only stand up for what they claim to believe in. These basketball players need to stop thinking of their money and themselves and need to start thinking about how they can help others.

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