This summer set a newfound precedent for athletes speaking out on political and social justice issues.
NBA superstar Lebron James urged athletes to “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.” It looks like Wisconsin basketball star Bronson Koenig has taken this message to heart.
This Friday, Koenig will make an 11 hour drive to a protest camp south of Bismarck, North Dakota. This group is protesting against an oil pipeline that could threaten sacred tribal land and leak oil, which could affect the immediate people and many others millions of miles away.
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It’s reassuring to see activism coming from such a high profile individual at the University of Wisconsin. Many people care about the environment and social justice issues, but never act on them.
What’s even more interesting, and probably unknown on campus, is Koenig’s role in the Native American community.
In a Yahoo Sports interview, Clint Parks, Koenig’s trainer, said, “In the Native American community, I would compare his platform to a LeBron or Carmelo [Anthony]. For his community, that’s what he is to them. I’ve had the opportunity to work a couple different camps at reservations with Native American kids this summer, and these kids are not saying they want to be LeBron or Steph [Curry]. They’re saying they want to be Bronson Koenig.”
Koenig is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, and he is standing up for his people. We are all Badgers, and we should start standing up for each other. This year has started with another swastika incident. How are we going to respond? Through complacency or, like Koenig, advocating for change?
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This is community just like any other and we must respect and serve our community. It isn’t enough just to recognize a problem — obviously anti-semitic graffiti and stereotypical “war chants” are bad — we must act on it.
There comes a certain point where enough is enough. For me, this is that point. There cannot be another biased, hate-filled year at UW. This has to end now, and all of us must play an active role.
Aaron Reilly ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in social work and economics.