Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thierry Henry Makes Time Magazine's List of 2007 Heroes and Pioneers

Thierry Henry, Time Magazine 2007 Pioneer and Hero

Thierry Henry, French international soccer star, formerly a player for Arsenal and now with Barcelona, has been selected as one of Time Magazine's Heroes and Pioneers of 2007.

The article is written by Tony Parker, the captain of the French national basketball team and a starting point guard for the San Antonio Spurs (with whom he has won three NBA championships). In the article, Parker writes:
But Thierry, 29, is so much more than a great soccer player who helped France reach last year's World Cup final and who has led his English club team, Arsenal, to four national-cup wins. He wants to change the world. It's no secret that European soccer is fighting a racism problem, in the crowd and on the field, and no player has done more to exorcise it than Thierry. After cameras caught Spain's national coach using a racist slur to describe Thierry in 2004, he could have lost his cool. Instead, Thierry, who is always steady, recruited a host of fellow soccer stars to launch his Stand Up Speak Up campaign, which raised millions of dollars and unprecedented awareness to fight racism. We talk about the problem all the time. Racism bothers him so much, but he wanted to attack it in a measured, professional manner. Given his upbringing in the ethnically diverse housing projects southwest of Paris, no one can speak out against intolerance better than Thierry. His impact has been immense. Sure, racism hasn't entirely disappeared from the soccer landscape, but you can sense it fading a bit. You've got to give Thierry some credit for this change.

RonaldinhoRio Ferdinand

The Stand Up Speak Up campaign has been made possible with the work of many people and major funding from a shoe manufacturer. Henry's efforts have had a huge impact on Europeans, who have been inundated with images of their favorite soccer players speaking out against racism. There is no denying the campaign's impact.

When professional athletes speak-out, many more people listen than when a politician speaks-out. Even more so than when a movie star or a rock star speaks out. Why is this? I think it is because politicians are known to just blather on and on about anything they think will get them elected. Rock stars and movie stars, no matter their personal political beliefs, aer always branded as "liberal" and therefore the mainstream media and those of us paying attention to the mainstream media, diminish the message because liberalism is now considered to be a sign of weakness.

Thierry Henry
I cannot tell you Thierry Henry's political affiliation. I do not know if he votes his soul or his pocketbook. Though I suspect the former, I have no proof. Still, he is my favorite soccer player in the entire world and I go out of my way to watch him play.

Thierry Henry knows he is a role model and he takes the position seriously. He shows himself to be a man of integrity when he parlays his success on the field to gain a platform to discuss important causes. Most athletes can't be bothered. In fact, I remember Charles Barkley bragging about his refusal to be a role model and being a Republican. Henry knows he is responsible to the society that has made him a multi-millionaire. He is unselfish.

Is the discussion of and fight against racism a liberal notion, or is it really intrinsic to the discussion of class and money? As Western countries like the United States, England, France and Spain are home to more wealthy people of color, does not racism become easier to battle?

Does this ignorance of an athlete's personal politics give him more credibility? Perhaps.

Irrespective of these thoughts, Henry took a stand and has changed the world. So, for this, he is a hero and a pioneer.

Stand Up Speak Up

See Football Unites Racism Divides

Time Magazine Article

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