Last week Virginia Tech hosted two iconic figures who have become famous and been vilified for their willingness to use sports-related platforms to advocate for social justice.
World record-setting runner and educator Thomas “Tommie” Smith used his moment on the gold-medal stand during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City to raise a black-gloved fist for Black Power amid a politically tumultuous year.
In 2017, broadcast journalist and former ESPN host Jemele Hill’s Twitter comments on the practice of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist likewise resulted in a political firestorm that led to her temporary suspension but also increased her popularity.
Smith and Hill discussed the responsibilities and risks in using one’s platform for social justice during a two-hour conversation on Jan. 31 in Moss Arts Center as part of Virginia Tech’s 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
“I want to use my platform to tell our stories in different ways,” Hill said. “If the lead sentence on my obituary is, ‘She once tweeted [that] Donald Trump was a white supremacist,’ I’m going to be very disappointed in myself. There’s so much that has to come after that. It’s just a…