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POTUS Town Hall

Bradley Beal ready to answer call to action

The Wizards guard joins fellow athletes to take a stand against social injustice

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal suspected he’d be the only professional athlete at President Barack Obama’s town hall meeting on Thursday.

Still, Beal knew it was something he needed to attend. He needed to represent not only as a black man, but as a black athlete. He needed to hear the stories, see the families, listen and process the questions being asked. So the 23-year-old hopped on a red-eye flight from Las Vegas the night before.

“Me being here today, I just wanted to be able to take a stand and show them that we want to do something serious,” Beal said. “I think it’s very important for us to take a stand because we’re viewed as role models, people look up to us and we have a voice. Whether we realize it or not, whether we accept it or not, we have to be able to be comfortable with our own mind and spirit to be able to speak up and do something.”

Bradley Beal on his personal interactions with police and thoughts on athlete activism

On Wednesday, the day before the president’s town hall, basketball stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James opened the 2016 ESPYS with a call to action for athletes to stand against police brutality and the unfair treatment of black lives in America. A few days earlier, Anthony, a forward for the New York Knicks, urged athletes in an Instagram post to make their voices heard, beginning with demanding change like other athlete-activists, such as Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown and the late boxer Muhammad Ali, have done in the past.

“I’m calling for all my fellow athletes to step up and take charge,” the post read. “Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There’s no more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge.”

View this post on Instagram

First off let me start off by saying " All Praise Due To The Most High." Secondly, I'm all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I'll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn't change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn't work. We tried that. I've tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn't work. We've all tried that. That didn't work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. While I don't have a solution, and I'm pretty sure a lot of people don't have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I'm calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There's NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can't worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7 #StayMe7o

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“What they did [Wednesday] night was a start and it’s very important to be able to say that,” Beal said. “It’s not about race. It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong at this point and it’s about change. We’re gonna do whatever it takes to see change and it starts with us athletes because we have a positive voice and I think that people will listen to us if we decide to speak.”

The town hall wasn’t the first time Beal had attended one of the president’s speaking engagements. Every speech leaves him with the desire to do more for the community, he said, including becoming more involved with Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which focuses on helping young men of color stay on the path toward reaching their full potential.

Beal believes athletes making their voices heard won’t be just a fad, but something that will last as long as social injustice continues to occur. The first step, he said, is for them to look at themselves in the mirror and figure out what they can do better as people. The next step is moving out of the comfort zones that so often keep athletes confined and silent.

“I think sometimes athletes, we’re too caught up in what people will think of us when we have a reaction to a social injustice situation that we’re in,” Beal said. “When we voice our opinions, we lose fans because they may not like what we say or they may not agree with what we say, so some athletes kind of hold their [tongues]. At the end of the day, it’s not about what other people may think of you. It’s not about their opinions … it’s a matter of what you stand up for, and you have to stand up for what’s right.”

Liner Notes

This video was produced by Lois Nam.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.