Athletes are speaking out for worthwhile causes more and more often these days, with the old "Republicans buy sneakers, too" rationale falling by the wayside in favor of selective social consciousness. You won't see many athletes take seriously controversial stances, but they will make their opinions known when they think it will help a cause.
Spurs star Manu Ginobili(notes) is one of those players. On Wednesday, Ginobili urged his Twitter followers to sign a petition against a bill in Uganda set to make homosexuality an offense punishable by death. Critics have cried out against the bill for years, and Ginobili did his small part to help out. Thankfully, the bill was shelved indefinitely on Friday.
In the grand scheme of things, Manu had very little to do with this outcome. But don't tell that to Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News:
Ginobili took a stand against a Ugandan bill that would impose the death penalty for being gay, urging his followers to sign an online petition on his Twitter account.
Only a few hours later, Ugandan lawmakers removed the death-penalty clause from the bill.
I think not.
Just another example of Manu being Manu.
Chances are that Griffin is exaggerating for comic effect here, because Ginobili and his 548,437 Twitter followers probably had about as little impact as anyone on the Ugandan parliament's decision here. Again, activists have been working to stop this bill for years. All Manu did was send out a link and hope that people would pay attention to an issue that could use as much support as possible.
Ginobili did a good thing here. But to call this a "major brush with social activism," as Griffin did in his post, is to give way too much credit to a pretty minor gesture that didn't really substantively change the issue at hand. He deserves a pat on the back, but let's save the serious plaudits for the people who really made this bill go away.
That's not to say that athletes shouldn't speak out -- calling attention to a story that people might not have noticed otherwise is important. It's just that people like Ginobili aren't the real heroes here.