Thank You To Those Who Speak Up When Others Won’t • Latino Sports

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Thank You To Those Who Speak Up When Others Won’t

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Bronx, NY – There are athletes and professionals in this country that I admire. The majority of those are not necessarily for their success in their profession, but rather for the positions that they have taken to speak up when others won’t.

My idol and perhaps the greatest athlete of all times is Muhammad Ali. I admired him before he changed his name from Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, when at the age of 22 he fought his first championship fight against the then world champion, Sonny Liston.

I was just 12 years old, and knew nothing about boxing. However, his fight was getting a lot of publicity because he was a talker and saying how he was going to beat the world champion Liston, “the big ugly bear” though he was a 7 – 1 underdog. My father and just about every older Puerto Rican that I heard speak on the fight did not like Clay. They were all rooting for Sonny Liston.

They were rooting for Liston, but it had nothing to do with boxing, or odds, or any of that. It was mainly due to the fact that our parents were very conservative when it came to speaking up, being loud, or challenging the status quo. The same things they said about Clay at that time, they later said about thousands of other young Puerto Ricans when we too spoke loud against the Vietnam War and the abuse and oppression that our community was facing.

So even before I became politically aware, I gravitated to Ali for the things that Ali was saying about Liston representing the “old”. I remember that all my Anglo; white teachers were also supporting Liston and badmouthing Clay.

Therefore, I knew I was on the right side. Ali proved me right when he spoke up against the Vietnam War that the majority of America’s youth were also against. Ali was stripped of his title due to his refusal to be drafted to army service. In 1966 his boxing license was also suspended by the state of New York.

He was convicted of draft evasion on June 20 and sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He paid a bond and remained free while the verdict was being appealed. That is why to me, Ali was the greatest athlete.

Much has happened since then, however one thing that has not occurred more frequently is that athletes refused to get involved, or speak up against injustice, especially Latino athletes. The only exception was Roberto Clemente who spoke out and loud against Jim Crow laws, in favor of the Civil rights movement and he also spoke out to the White press for discriminating against Spanish speaking players.

I also must give kudos to another Puerto Rican, Carlos Delgado who refused to stand up to God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch in protest to paying tribute a second time (he stood up at the beginning of the game for the national anthem), but refused to pay tribute a second time that he believed was paying tribute to a War in Iraq and Afghanistan, something that he was against.

That is why today I applaud the few that have spoken up like former San Francisco quarterback, Colin Kapernick who refused to stand for the national anthem last season in protest to the violence against minorities, particularly by the police. It’s a shame and proof of the continued racial discrimination in this country when he has yet to be signed by any football club for any quarterback role.

I also applaud the recent NBA and NFL players who either through Twitter, or in an act have expressed their concerns with the recent events of Charlottesville. LeBron James; Philadelphia Eagles, Chris Long; Seattle Seahawks, Michael Bennett: Brooklyn Nets, Jeremy Lin; Oklahoma City, Enes Kanter; and Dallas Mavericks, Harrison Barnes are just some of them.

What’s up with MLB? I look forward to see, or hear the first MLP baseball player, African American, White, or Latino speak up. I believe we are in a racial crisis and we need “all hands on deck” including sports to help heal the country.

Congrats to members of the NYPD for speaking up for Kapernick: SOURCE

About Julio Pabón

Julio is President and Founder of Latino Sports LLC., the parent company of Latinosports.com. Julio is a product of the South Bronx where he still lives and runs his businesses. Julio has written and has been interviewed for numerous publication and networks on sports & political issues. He has been an activist promoting social justice and respect for all communities. He is a recognized motivational speaker, was an adjunct professor of American History and presently volunteer’s as a lecturer in local South Bronx High Schools. His primary goal is to make Latinosports.com a multi-facet sports portal that will engender social and economic empowerment to the Latino community.

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