When people think of professional athletes, many marvel at the ideas of superstars such as Lebron James, Tom Brady, and Serena Williams. However, as with any industry representation matters. When the opportunity arises for an Asian athlete to gain widespread mainstream attention and social media virality, those athletes must set an example for the billions of people watching them. With the rise in attacks and violence against people within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, it is important to recognize the power that certain Asian American athletes have. It is important to understand why visibility and representation of Asians in sport is important especially during a historic time of racism and hate that is prevalent within our contemporary society.
The words “Diversity” and “Inclusion” are common buzzwords that are repeatedly thrown around to describe minorities in any setting. Yet, it is vital to understand what these terms mean for Asians that have solidified their position in their respective sports. In America, the most popular sports leagues to watch include the NBA, NFL, and the MLB. These entities are considered to be the pinnacle of sports leagues which translates to the most talented players in the world playing in these leagues. These leagues preach different variations about being inclusive and having some of the most diverse rosters in the world, but the numbers tell another story.
According to studies/articles from “The 2020 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Basketball Association” written by Richard Lapchick and David Zimmerman, they showcase the numbers behind the “racial inclusion” of these leagues. As stated by the listed sources previously; Asian-based athletes make up 0.4% of the NBA, partly 1.9% of the NFL, and the MLB groups in Asians with “other” which make up a total of 2.9%. These numbers only tell a part of the story, but it represents the entire issue as a whole. With this information being known, it is important to realize that the Asian community needs stars and role models to look up for both guidance and motivation. When there is an elite Asian Athlete in any sport, their impact has a reach far more than just the fans they look to entertain.
To address the importance of Asians in sport, we must first address the issue of the rise in violence towards Asians in American society. These brutal attacks on the defenseless victims who are often elderly individuals or young kids are completely disgusting to witness. When an issue as massive as this occurs, it is up to the community to decide how to react to these moments of brutality. We look to the examples set forth by great athletes such as Lebron James, Coco Gauff, and Natasha Cloud who led their communities during the Black Lives Matter movements. They are prime examples of minority athletes who are utilizing their platform for the betterment of their communities both locally and globally. With full respect to the athletes listed, it is time for the very few Asian athletes that have the same platform to act accordingly in response to this racial harassment.
With regards to the current racial conflicts going on throughout the country, there have been a few highlighted Asian American athletes that have stepped up to remind people why we as a people need to be seen. Jeremy Lin has acted as the poster child for Asian American athletes over the past couple of years. He carries that tremendous weight on his shoulders and continues to prove why he is still very much a leader both on and off the court. In a video posted by Bleacher Report titled, “Jeremy Lin Speaks on Rise of Racism Against AAPI Communities” he states, “We’re tired. We’re tired of our cries and anguish not being heard. We’re tired of our pain being overlooked. We’re tired of keeping our heads down or not making any trouble when our elders are being assaulted, stabbed, and killed. Wouldn’t you be?” Powerful statements such as this that are being broadcasted on various media sport-based outlets such as Bleacher Report is one of the main reasons as to why it is important to have Asians in sport.
Besides being able to speak out on social issues, utilizing the platform that is given to professional athletes has been a huge benefit to Asians that can make it to the professional level. Imagine how many young Asian kids playing sports are fearful because they are exposed to the constant offensive jokes that occur throughout their adolescence. Racial name-calling, jokes about foreign food, and even obscenities about the way we talk and the way our face looks are just some of the realities that Asian Americans must face in sports. The importance of Asians in sport goes way deeper than the ideas of representation and diversity. Throughout the timeline of professional sports Asians have had to battle adversities and break barriers to get to the point where they are today. The impact of Asians in sport represents all of the obstacles, misfortunes, and distress that they must endure getting to the professional level and even that isn’t enough. It should always be noted, that the Asian community will always support those who can make it to the peak of sports performance and that we as a whole feel an immense wave of pride whenever we see someone who looks like us do well in their sport.
- Lapchick, Richard; Zimmerman, David (July 23, 2020). “The 2020 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Basketball Association”(PDF). tidesport.org. Archived (PDF)from the original on January 27, 2021.