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Don Mahler: Apathy Not the Answer

Valley News Sports Editor Don Mahler

Valley News Sports Editor Don Mahler

It is the nature of the beast that a student-athlete can sometimes be viewed as living in a bubble.

If an issue doesn’t affect the athlete, his or her team or school, then it probably has the life expectancy of a newly birthed Snapchat.

But for just a moment I ask student-athletes to pop that bubble and reflect on the news of the day and understand that while there is no direct local connection, there is a critical connection we all need to make as athletes and members of a welcoming society.

The news I refer to is the reprehensible and racist remarks of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While Sterling and his Clippers live their lives some 3,000 miles to the west, his comments about minorities and their place in his society affect us all — no matter where we live.

Remember, racism is color blind. Ignorance knows no barriers. And apathy allows both to flourish.

We must all be involved and concerned enough to realize that our silence constitutes a blank check of acceptance for any of these deviant attitudes. And that is just not acceptable.

Obviously, action is a relative term. I’m not suggesting people fly to L.A. and join a picket line — but don’t let the distance mute your voice, blunt your commitment or limit your conviction to erasing these kinds of comments from our world.

While we cannot take back Sterling’s comments, we can let it be known that as athletes, there is no room in our world for those kinds of beliefs, or for the people who may hold them. Either on your team or in your social circle.

It’s not always what goes in the scorebook that makes you a star; and it’s not always what goes in the newspaper that makes you a leader. It is the character of the person that stands out, and those with character are standing up and speaking out to show that we are an inclusive group — playing on the same team and holding the same ideals.

Like the hot-button issues of the day — bullying, hazing and domestic violence — we must do more than shake our heads in silence. We must let our voices be heard, no matter the distance.

So you ask: “What has this got to do with me?”

Everything.

Someday, you young Upper Valley athletes will be the grown-ups. Someday you will have children looking for direction and guidance. Someday it will be your turn to keep the social compass pointed straight.

We all applaud the swift and overwhelming action taken by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Sterling for life. But we must be vigilant to prepare for the next ignorant social diatribe.

It is up to you, those privileged to participate in the melting pot of athletics, who must hold the line — to make sure these types of comments and these kinds of people have no place in our society.

Stand up; speak out. Be leaders, not followers. Do not shrink from your task or your responsibility. People look up to athletes — let’s give them good reason.

Racism — and all the other ‘ism’ evils in our lives — shall have no place to breed their poison in our world.

And make it known that all those who threaten to tear our flag of unity shall be banished. Just like Donald Sterling.

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.