In recent weeks, we’ve had conversations with members of the Black Players Alliance of the USL about the decision to keep playing matches and what they’d like to see from the USL in regards to the fight for social justice. Today, we turn our attention to the importance of voting in the upcoming election and the response to the “shut up and dribble/stick to sports” crowd. Again, we bring you the insights of Tyler David of Union Omaha, Peabo Doue of Loudoun United, Devante Dubose of Richmond Kickers, and Brandon Miller and Hugh Roberts of the Charlotte Independence.
The Beautiful Game Network: One of the focuses of the NBA and WNBA players’ social justice push, as well as other leagues, has been getting people out to vote this November. How important is exercising the right to vote to help racial equality?
Tyler David: Voting is immensely important for those who are educated. Voting is good, but I think it’s even more important individuals know what they are voting for and why they are voting.
Peabo Doue: No vote, no change. Basic, but I’m not sure how else to put it.
Devante Dubose: It is extremely important to vote this upcoming election. It is an opportunity to impact the future.
Brandon Miller: This is a tough topic for me. I’ll be fully transparent; I’ve never voted. In 2008, at the age of 18, I was apathetic and that carried over into 2012 as well. I didn’t really understand the impact I could have. In 2016, I took it upon myself to get as much information as possible to make an informed decision. I was so turned off by the election process and the voting process that I decided it was better for me to abstain than to participate in something I didn’t believe in. At this point, I’ve had to adjust. I can’t simply tell everyone to “Go Vote!” because I will never back ignorant voting. What I will say is, it’s important to educate yourself before heading to the polls. You may not agree with everything each candidate says, but it’s important to know who would be best for the American people and if we don’t go out and express our opinions through voting, then those opinions can’t be counted.
Hugh Roberts: This election is big. What we as black folks don’t realize sometimes is that we have a lot of power in these elections if we go out and vote. There’s a reason for voter suppression; they’re happy when we don’t vote. There’s also never anybody in the office that looks like us so I can’t blame everyone, but we have power when we show up and vote.
BGN: You’re obviously involved in this mission of the USLBPA and that goes well beyond just being a talented soccer player. What would you say to someone that is angry at athletes using their platform for “non-sports” stuff, essentially the “stick to soccer/shut up and dribble” crowd or that doesn’t believe systematic racism exists?
David: As far as sticking to soccer is concerned, that makes me laugh because I’m far more than a soccer player. People who say stick to soccer need to look themselves in the mirror. Are they simply sticking to their profession? It would appear not. Someone who doesn’t believe systematic oppression exists is either uneducated or uninformed and I would love to have a conversation with them to help broaden perspective.
Doue: To that person, I guess I would say, as a professional athlete, and citizen of the United States, it is a responsibility to inform and influence, just as much as it is to entertain. For those who believe systematic oppression doesn’t exist, I would say, you can’t know what you don’t know. I think it’s important that we share personal experiences during these discussions.
Dubose: To say stick to soccer only shows a lack of compassion, which means he or she needs a lot more love in their heart and their life that they are lacking. For those that believe systemic racism/oppression doesn’t exist, that only means they lack the knowledge and have not been properly educated, and individuals must have the will to be educated as well as an open mind. It is not their fault directly, however it is their responsibility to fully educate themselves, not half educate.
Miller: “Stick to soccer” isn’t something I’m willing to respond to anymore, I have to pick and choose my battles and that one isn’t high up on the priority list. I’ve also had to guard my energy against those that turn a blind eye to the systemic injustices that have been going on for years. The mission of our organization is to provide educational resources for those that may not be as educated on the subject.
Roberts: To people who say stick to sports, I tell them to go play Xbox. We’re not robots. When it’s your family being killed on the streets in front of millions, how can you practice the next day? You think this doesn’t affect us? You want to sit on your couch and watch your sports that bad? Imagine how you’d feel if it was your family.
BGN: When it comes to the fight for racial equality, there are people looking for information or an outlet to help directly. Are there any foundations you support, books to help educate, activists that inspired you, etc.?
David: I would like to shoutout all of the athletes who are advocating for the current state of our nation. Athletes have embraced their platform in recent years and recent months and as negative energy comes about from that, even more, positive support and reinforcement has helped our country grow.
Miller: There are plenty of guys around the league doing great work in their communities to fight racial injustice and our organization will look to highlight all those great works and partner with organizations nationwide who continue to fight that battle. For me personally, I’ve been working with the Young Investors Society and Heal Charlotte to impact my local community. YIS is a financial literacy program which aims to educate the youth on the power of money. Their program teaches kids about all aspects of the finance world so they are prepared to step into their adult life and make smart financial decisions. This can be extremely impactful in low-income communities where money is a massive issue. Heal Charlotte is a local non-profit that is aiming to alleviate the affordable housing crisis in the city. They just announced a $10 million initiative to purchase and re-develop a motel into affordable housing so I am working with them to raise money as well as do some other projects.
Click HERE to register to vote.