Athletes For Peace

ATHLETES FOR CHANGE 
Posted 3/8/13

Dennis is the first in a long line of peacemakers from the Championship Bulls. (Image: SI)

Dennis Rodman went to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Un last week. They took in a basketball game and reportedly talked politics and culture. There were also reports they “partied” together with Rodman saying upon his return about Jong Un, “he’s really pretty awesome.”

We traditionally think of our Ambassadors being professional, formally educated men and women, but I think this is great and can open up a tremendous opportunity for diplomacy moving forward.

Just think about the Palestinians and Israelis at war for decades. Traditional diplomacy hasn’t worked. What about sending Albert Pujols? I mean… what could it hurt? He could take everyone to a Cricket match, or hit fastballs off of the sacred mosques and things are bound to get better.

Flare-ups with the Sunni/Shia Muslims? I can’t think of anyone better to send over there than 2012 Pro Bowling Tour points leader Jason Belmonte. I can see the news reports, “Pro Bowler Strikes Out War.” It would be a political windfall.

After all, a lot of these professional athletes have tons of time on their hands between workouts and playing their half-year sports. All that time is being wasted NOT solving the world’s problems. What does Eric Hosmer do in the offseason? I’ll bet you don’t even know. Well, for starters, he negotiated a framework agreement in the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Islamic militant group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

What’s more, his corner infield mate Mike Moustakas helped with some State Department language for the Central American Free Trade Agreement that’s up before Congress now. He added several key paragraphs about tariffs and how they should be calculated.

Professional athletes are commonly made fun of because of their intelligence. Former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw once was made fun of by Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson saying that he Bradshaw couldn’t spell CAT if he spotted him the C and the A. What Henderson and millions of Americans didn’t know at the time was that Bradshaw traveled during the off season to West Africa and was in secret negotiations over what would become the 1975 Treaty of Lagos. This treaty established the Economic Community of West African States. Bradshaw would later win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Rodman is just the latest in a long string of peace workers whose “day” job is simply to dunk a basketball or hit a homerun. In fact, he’s not even the first of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to find themselves at the center of International Politics. The team commonly referred to as “the greatest NBA team of all-time” has featured three other “National Basketball Association” players turned into “Not Bad Ambassadors.” Who can forget the drama of Steve Kerr and Luc Longley traveling to India to set up the first nuclear testing program. And Michael Jordan once bought and sold the entire continent of Australia.

So let’s raise a glass to these players as they set their lineups for the world stage. Let’s hope more professional athletes spend their time negotiating peace between countries. The world would be a better place.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. He hosts a baseball-themed radio show Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on ESPN 1510 AM. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)

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