Monday night, former Syracuse basketball player Etan Thomas returned to campus to speak at Hendricks Chapel as part of the Maxwell School’s Tanner Lecture Series. Thomas talked about his new book, “We Matter: Athletes and Activism,” and his experiences with political and social activism.
After his time at SU, Thomas was a strong activist during his 11-year tenure in the NBA. He spoke at anti-war rallies in 2005 and 2007 and actively supported Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. He received the NBA’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation Legacy Award in 2009, and in 2010 won the NBA Players Association Community Contribution Award.
Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim introduced Thomas Monday night, calling him the perfect example of what Syracuse represents on and off the court. Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute Grant Reeher interviewed Thomas.
Thomas said he has always been using his platform. He competed on the Speech and Debate team in high school. At SU, he took part in a protest against officers using pepper spray in his first week on campus. Now, he writes poems and books while appearing on the radio and speaking across the country.
Thomas also talked Monday about his new book in which he interviews many athletes on their experiences in activism, including Carmelo Anthony, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Dwyane Wade and Mark Cuban. Thomas said he hopes the book helps people realize what it takes to be active. He wants to show readers the effort these athletes put into their causes and personalize activism.
Later, Thomas had the chance to talk about current issues in activism. He touched on the recent protests against gun violence, specifically the movement in Parkland, Florida.
“The way they are using your voices is very admirable. It’s so courageous,” Thomas said. “Every movement has been ignited by young people.”
Thomas also commented on Fox News reporter Laura Ingraham, saying she “said they didn’t have the right to speak” when Ingraham spoke against LeBron James’ activism. He said this isn’t new, citing the treatment of athlete activism during the Civil Rights Movement.
Since he went First Team All-Big East in 2000, Etan Thomas continued to grow both his game in the NBA and his presence in social activism. When asked what other people can do to become active, he said to start a dialogue.
“Provide information,” Thomas said. “You have to tell them to see it from another person’s perspective.”
Posted: Nathan Dickinson