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Sports, Unity and Paris

By: Kyera Stinson

Pray for Paris NHL

Paris — a place of art, music and love. The people of France would say that Paris is life, but in a split second that life would be briefly halted with fear and commotion. Friday, November 13 marked yet another horrid day in history that many people will never forget. 129 people were been killed as a result of what has been deemed a terrorist attack on the French capital, Paris. As families and friends mourned the losses of loved ones in France, sports teams and fans from all across the United States, stood united together to pay tribute.

The significant impact that the sports world has on social issues has always been great, whether it has been an individual effort or a world act. It is no secret that for decades, a number of athletes have also been known as activist, marching and fighting for causes they truly believe in.

Pray for Paris NBAJust last year, as the development of yet another series of injustice within the police force unfolded, athletes began using their platforms to shed light on these issues. In November 2014, the St. Louis Rams entered the Edward Jones Dome with their hands up, in support of the protests for Mike Brown, a young and unarmed African American teenager who was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson Missouri. A month before his death, 43-year-old husband and father Eric Garner died in a police chokehold. After Garner’s death, several NBA players including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant did their pre-game warmups in all black t-shirts with Garner’s final last words: “I can’t breathe.”

The stance for athletes and activism didn’t just start overnight with the matters as previously mentioned. It most visibly and famously began in the 1960s and 70s when Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Smith and Carlos’ salute was symbolic of the oppression and chaos that surrounded them during the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and a post-civil rights cry for equality and peace.

In 1990 champion boxer and humanitarian Muhammed Ali, went to Iraq to negotiate the release of several hostages and more recently, famous African football player Didier Drogba helped to end a massive civil war on in the Ivory Coast. From t-shirts and banners to implementing causes in their speeches, athletes show that they are not just players who love their sports, but that they are conscious, aware and they care about their communities as well.

Quite often events and concerns in society go unnoticed and overlooked even with amount of coverage given in news and media. Athletes; especially those in the top tier of their sport, have the ability to send out messages and not only get people involved in public matters, but also to gain knowledge for those who aren’t aware.

Just about every sports venue you can think of shed light on Friday night’s events; from the singing of France’s National Anthem, to the lighting of stadiums and arenas in blue, white and red. Fans and sports teams from all over, put their rivalries aside to come together over the weekend and support the people of France. While the realm of sports has always been known to shed light on world events, it was impossible not to notice the personal impacts specifically on the players that Paris would hold.

Raiders and FranceCollege football players displayed logos of the Eiffel Tower on their cleats, while NHL player and native Parisian, Pierre-Edward Bellemare wore the flag on his helmet.

In the NBA alone there are at least 13 players of French descent, and a number of others who also have loved ones residing in the area. While many players took to their social media pages to post and sympathize with those affected, players like Kevin Seraphin and Alexis Ajinca found others ways to express their love. Seraphin, Center for the New York Knicks, who was born in French Guiana and lives in Paris during the offseason, expressed himself by shaping the name Paris into the back of his haircut. After the Knicks 95-87 win over the Pelicans he took to twitter to dedicate the win to all of the victims. Ajinca, who is a native of Saint Etienne, France, sported the famous hashtag: #PrayforParis, on his shoe during the Pelicans matchup versus the Knicks. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz also sported Paris on his shoes, while other French NBA players wore #PrayforParis shirts during warm up.

Goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu who plays for Italy is noted as the only athlete so far who has lost two of his best friends in the attacks.

On Sunday afternoon as NFL players headed out on the field waving the French flag and holding special moments of silence, natives of Paris took to their twitters to express their appreciation and gratitude in many different ways thanking the supporters from all over for their support in this time of need. While it is a time for mourning for the families who have lost loved ones, it is also a time of togetherness. The fight for unity, safety and equality has only begun.

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Kyera Stinson

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