In the wake of the racist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., that turned violent over the weekend, a number of athletes have spoken out condemning the bigotry on display by the white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
On Friday night, a large group of white supremacists marched with tiki torches, chanted racial slurs and got into scuffles with counter-protesters on the University of Virginia campus. The situation turned deadly on Saturday. Following more clashes and chants of racist/Nazi slogans, 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed when a neo-Nazi ran through a crowd in his car, injuring dozens more.
The most visible of reactions from athletes so far came from Seahawks DE Michael Bennett. Ahead of Seattle's preseason game with the Chargers, Bennett sat on the bench for the duration of the national anthem, mirroring the protests by Colin Kaepernick last season.
After the game, Bennett said he made the decision to sit for the anthem in the wake of what was happening in Charlottesville.
"With everything that's been going on the last couple of months, and especially after the last couple of days seeing what's going on in Virginia, and earlier today in Seattle, I just wanted to be able to use my platform to be able to continuously speak on injustice," Bennett said.
A number of former University of Virginia athletes also spoke out against the racist protest. Chief among them was longtime Charlottesville resident and Philadelphia Eagles DE Chris Long.
Hate these images... This isn't CVille.... The tantrum will be over soon #insecurity- Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 12, 2017
Insanely frustrating. Evolution will favor the self assured... not man babies with tiki torches or people playing "militia"- Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 12, 2017
Long also combatted the notion that the ones who started the racist protest were Charlottesville locals.
Love people explaining to a 24 year CVille resident who and who isn't from out of town.- Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 12, 2017
Cville residents and students are the vast majority of the ones counter protesting. https://t.co/AxPnrwGkKp- Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 12, 2017
NBC Sports soccer commentator and former UVA soccer player Kyle Martino also voiced his disbelief in the scenes coming out of Charlottesville.
My 2 years @ UVA were 2 of my best. Shocked & horrified to see what's happening. ❤ shall overcome the hate that's trespassing on C'Ville- Kyle Martino (@kylemartino) August 12, 2017
Nationals closer and former Virginia baseball player Sean Doolittle also was vocal.
Since I'm new in DC, I've purposely kept a low profile and stayed off social media but what happened in VA made me sick.- Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) August 13, 2017
The C'Ville I knew from my time at @UVA is a diverse and accepting community. It's no place for Nazis.- Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) August 13, 2017
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." - JFK- Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) August 13, 2017
There is only one side.- Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) August 13, 2017
The most high-profile athlete to let his thoughts be known on the events in Charlottesville was LeBron James. In a tweet that's accumulated more than 85,000 retweets, James expressed his disbelief and directed his ire toward President Donald Trump.
It's sad what's going on in Charlottesville. Is this the direction our country is heading? Make America Great Again huh?! He said that🤦- LeBron James (@KingJames) August 12, 2017
Our youth deserves better!! Flat out- LeBron James (@KingJames) August 12, 2017
Oklahoma City power forward Enes Kanter, an Turkish immigrant and someone who knows better than most what it is to live under an authoritarian yoke, also tweeted this poignant image to stand in contrast to the torches wielded by the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.
Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.