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Athletes turned activists

By Ryan Finley
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 26, 2000
Talk about this story

My bosses don't understand me or my political agenda.

After a Monday night filled with looting and lighting trash cans on fire in the streets, I wanted to take yesterday off in support of the Elian Gonzalez situation.

But my editors, those insensitive bastards, are making me write a column anyway. As soon as I'm done writing this, I'm going to call the American Civil Liberties Union.

For anyone under a rock, Gonzalez was forcibly dragged from his uncle's house early Saturday morning to be placed with his natural father at a Maryland Air Force base. The entire scenario unfolded on CNN at about 2:30 a.m.

In a stroke of luck, I happened to be one of the few Americans awake to see it play out on national TV.

Sure, it was 2 a.m. and I was half-cocked at the time, but I was shocked at the brutality used by the Immigration and Naturalization Services in taking young Elian from the modest Little Havana neighborhood.

Outraged, some members of the community decided to light trash cans on fire in the middle of the street. Others decided to attack the assembled media members - some even went so far as to destroy some photographers' cameras.

However, there were some Floridians that decided to do the right thing -protest peacefully. Along with these outraged citizens, the Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants allowed many of their players to miss last night's game to protest the handling of the raid. The work stoppage was led by Miami's Cuban-American community leaders.

All of these athletes should be commended for their decisions, because it is not often that they do they do anything truly important.

But, in turbulent Miami, these men care enough to become an example for concerned citizens everywhere.

Mike Lowell, one of the players who missed the game, is married to a Cuban-American woman. Two others are Cubans themselves. So while each has been touched in a different way, they each should be praised for their activism. Athletes will often skip a game because of an injury, but rarely will they show any sort of political affiliation.

It's about time athletes recognize they are role models.

So often in sports, members of the media - including myself - tend to glorify the bawdier aspects of sports. Crack busts and prostitutes make for great columns, trust me.

Daryl Strawberry and John Rocker have become living punchlines in American society. Hockey players are being found doing crack with prostitutes while baseball players flip the bird to fans during games.

The players who skipped last night's game should be commended. After all, it's not every day that athletes live up to the words "role model."

Ryan Finley can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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