Sports and Social Issues: How Athletes and Teams are Using Their Platforms to Drive Change

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How do sports contribute to social change?

Kids And Communities Deserve More Not to mention that when used as a tool for social change, sport strengthens communities by improving health, education, and social cohesion. Simply put, high-quality sports activities are some of the most effective youth development programs available.

Sports and Social Issues: How Athletes and Teams are Using their Platforms to Drive Change


The world of sports is rapidly evolving, and athletes and professional sports teams are often at the forefront of this change. In recent years, we’ve seen prominent figures in the sports world use their public platforms to drive social change, from Colin Kaepernick’s stand against racial injustice in the NFL to LeBron James’ crusade to fight poverty and inequality in the United States. This article will explore the ways in which athletes and sports teams have used their positions to advance social causes and impact social issues both in the US and worldwide.

Effects on Social Causes

One of the most visible effects of athletes and sports teams using their positions to champion social causes is the increased awareness of social issues. This increased awareness leads to a further understanding of these causes, and as a result, leads to more people taking action to help combat these social problems. For example, the NBA’s championship-winning Golden State Warriors publicly denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban imposed on seven predominantly Muslim countries in 2017. This statement helped raise awareness of the ban, its implications, and the need for resistance. It also provided a source of inspiration for other athletes and public figures to voice their own objections to the ban.

Platforms of Change

Professional athletes and sports teams have public platforms to speak out on social causes, and many have used this platform to advocate for change and spark conversations about social issues. One notable example of this was basketball player Chris Paul’s 2017 speech at the ESPY Awards. In this speech, Paul spoke out against racism and police brutality in the United States and encouraged viewers to recognize their own responsibilities in making change. By using his public platform, Paul was able to send a powerful message to those watching the ceremony and raise awareness of the need to take action against racism and police brutality.

Athletic Alliances Across the Globe

In addition to their individual platforms, athletes and professional sports teams have been joining forces to impact social causes and global issues. One example of this is the UNICEF FIFA Soccer Aid initiative, which was started in 2006.Through this initiative, some of the world’s biggest football stars have teamed up to help promote UNICEF’s work in helping provide basic needs, healthcare, and education to children around the world. The initiative has raised a reported £25 million to help improve the lives of deprived children and has potentially impacted millions of lives around the world.

The Positive Impact of Athletes Supporting Charities

Athletes using their public platforms to champion charities is another way sports have been used to drive social change. A few examples of athletes and teams that have used fundraising to make an impact is the NBA’s ‘Hoops for St. Jude’ campaign, spearheaded by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and other NBA players. The campaign aims to raise awareness about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and encourages people to donate towards research to help find cures for childhood cancer. Another example is Cristiano Ronaldo’s “2030” foundation, which seeks to support charities and organizations that focus on underprivileged children and education.

Role of Professional Sports Teams

Professional sports teams have also been playing a large role in social change, in addition to individual athletes. In 2018, the NFL adopted a policy in which players are not allowed to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest against racial inequality. The NBA also instituted a “Respect for the National Anthem” regulation which states that all team personnel must stand during the national anthem while on the court. While these new regulations have been met with criticism, they illustrate the power that professional sports teams have when it comes to making social change.

Using the Media to Promote Change

Sports teams, athletes, and leagues have also used the media to amplify their messages about social issues. The NBA has been particularly adept at this, as evidenced by their “Together We Stand” campaign. This campaign, launched in 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, sought to spread the message that racism and injustice are still pervasive issues in today’s society. Through this campaign, the NBA used television and digital media to share stories of athletes and their experiences with racism and to encourage viewers to take action to fight racial injustice.

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