"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Statue of Liberty (Emma Lazarus, 1883)
This inscription has long served as a welcoming call to the refugee seeking shelter. Many authors and artists have used these words to serve as a comforting ballad which illustrates the care extended to the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak -- the last, the least, the lost. We expect our artistic community -- poets, film directors, painters, singers -- to make such statements.
But making statements such as these is not reserved to the artistry of the stage or the canvas. Athletes, too, have an important voice, an essential perspective and critical understanding of solidarity, friendship and love. And athletes need not be expected to ask permission to support, to be loud, to share and to engage.
Through the experience of participating in sports, athletes develop the skills to advocate for human rights, peace and inclusion. The lessons learned and the values essential for success in sports are also applicable when speaking up as advocates and allies for social justice.
Athletes cannot, need not, stay silent. They can choose to be leaders in the social justice movement. The voices and the platforms of athletes at the professional, Olympic, collegiate and scholastic sport levels are essential and necessary for addressing racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, islamaphobia and all forms of discrimination and prejudice.
"Leaders have to give clear and decisive leadership towards a world of tolerance and respect for difference, and an uncompromising commitment to peaceful solutions of conflicts and disputes." ~ Nelson Mandela (1999)
The time is now for athletes to wear the uniforms of global citizens. Athletes can now act as inclusion ambassadors. Athletes can now speak truth to power. Athletes can now advocate for freedom of speech. Athletes can now become allies. Athletes can now support human rights.
People need not suffer the pain of exclusion, stigmas and labels. Excluding others and creating borders are unconscionable affronts to human dignity. We do not want this as athletes, we do not want this in sport. We do not want this in our world.
We need waves of athletes advocating for human rights, peace, justice and inclusion to circle our locker-rooms, our stadiums, and our local and global communities. Athletes need to have active and ongoing places at the table to address human rights in and through sport. Athletes also need the support of sport administrators, fans, and sponsors to uplift them and their message of inclusion.
Athletes around the world have been called off the bench, off the sidelines and into the starting line-ups as advocates for inclusivity, justice and humanity. Athletes can become living examples of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who said we must remain vigilant "until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."