In speaking out, young athletes prove they are more than just the sum of their skills
Kobe Paras doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.
“I’m 22. I don’t know it all,” the University of the Philippines (UP) star wrote on his Instagram story late Friday night.
“But I can tell what right from wrong is,” he added.
Earlier that day, Paras voiced out plans to raise money to bail out seven jailed UP Cebu students who were nabbed after protesting against the antiterror bill. Police picked up the peaceful protesters purportedly for violating quarantine rules.
Paras’ UP teammates also promised to pitch in, drawing praise for their sociopolitical awareness.
And it seems that several other young players are also making sure their voices are heard at a time when there is a strong push to muzzle athletes, artists and other celebrities when it comes to their political views.
“I don’t think I could afford to stay silent,” Jack Animam, the country’s highly regarded women’s basketball standout, told the Inquirer in Filipino when asked about her stance against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which was passed in Congress on Wednesday.
“I’m fed up with how people in power are treating us, especially when we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Animam said. “We’ve been in quarantine for months and there had been no clear solutions for the people, then they’d pass this bill?”
“’Di ko kayang mag bulag-bulagan. Nakakasakit ng damdamin (I can’t turn a blind eye. It hurts).”
‘Who else will?’
Jamie Lim, the country’s karate gold medalist in last year’s Southeast Asian Games and an Olympic hopeful, is also using her platform to speak out for those whose voices will always get lost in the din.
“If we do not [speak out for those who can’t], who else will?” Lim said.
The UP graduate was among the young athletes who protested the swift passage of the bill in the midst of a pandemic.
“I thought it was clear that the enemy is COVID-19,” she said. “We are supposed to be united, cooperating and working together … But there are so many efforts totally unrelated to solving this health crisis.”
There have been several critics of athletes who make their political voice heard. Most notably, news anchor Laura Ingraham told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” after the Lakers star’s tirades against US President Donald Trump in 2018. Locally, several people have complained about athletes and other celebrities speaking out their political views, with some even sharing harsh memes suggesting them to stick to what they’re skilled at.
But young athletes don’t see it that way.
“As people with influence, we enjoy a platform. And within it, the duty to use it,” said Animam who has anchored National University’s historic run in the UAAP and was part of a historic SEA Games gold medal feat.
“We are all citizens of the Philippines and we have the responsibility to fight for something bigger than ourselves,” Lim added.
Among the other amateurs who used their social platforms to make a stand were former Ateneo main man Thirdy Ravena and University of Santo Tomas skipper CJ Cansino.
“Shut up and dribble? Nah,” Cansino posted on Friday after tweeting in protest against the antiterror bill.
Ravena, meanwhile, shared social media entries that inform about the risky loopholes of the bill. Both Ravena and Paras have signed an online petition against the bill.
Paras took it a step further by helping raise bail for the jailed UP Cebu students. Other players who also donated cash for the students’ legal fees or helped encourage people to do the same were brothers Javi and Juan Gomez de Liaño, Ricci Rivero, Jun Manzo and Paul Desiderio.
“We want them to excel in their sports they are in. But we also provide them the environment that they can freely express themselves,” said Renan Dalisay, founding chair of the NoWhere To Go But UP Foundation. “As influencers and personalities in the field of sports, they can do a lot in inspiring people to speak out for what they believe is right or wrong.”
And for as long as they can, they will do everything to make people listen.
“The people’s voice, it’s a cry for help,” Lim said. “It should be heard, not silenced.”
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