Cullen Jones: ‘Justice Is Action … But Through Peace’; Lia Neal, Olivia Smoliga Deliver Powerful Messages

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Cullen Jones Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

As many took to the streets to protest the treatment of minorities by police and society in the U.S. this weekend, many influential swimmers, led by Cullen Jones and Lia Neal, took to social media to voice their own concerns about race relations in the United States.

These messages came from black swimmers, white swimmers, male swimmers, female swimmers, current swimmers, former swimmers — all spreading the voice of unity during these difficult times.

Racism has been an issue in our country since it’s inception and continues to be. This weekend’s protests around the country were sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands — or under the knee — of a Minneapolis police officer.

Many protests around the country were peaceful, but unfortunately, many were not.

Swimmers took to social media to make sure that this is an issue that continues to be discussed. The tone of posts was one that kept the discussion going and spread awareness of what the problems are and what can be done about them.

Olympian Cullen Jones has been one of the world’s most influential swimmers, who happens to be African-American. He has broken down barriers in the sport, inspiring a generation of young swimmers. He posted this on Instagram:

“I have loved this country from the day I learned the star spangled banner, to the day I was blessed enough to stand atop the Olympic podium to recite it before the world. But enough is enough. For years I have kept my personal thoughts and convictions to myself. I must stand for what I believe in. As a Black man in America, I have dealt with my share of harassment. As a swimmer, I have always prided myself on breaking stereotypes and being a role model for others to do the same. But I cannot be quiet anymore.

“As a new father, I am continually thinking about how to raise my Indian/Black son, in this America. I don’t want him to have to fear the people who are meant to protect. I don’t want to have to teach him that it is his duty to linguistically disarm those same people by being calm and following directions so that the person with the gun feels more comfortable. Just because of the color of his skin.

“For all creeds, religions, and backgrounds protesting, the hurt is real. But the way we achieve justice is yes action, but through peace, communication and most important, at the polls. I pray for the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of racism. Enough is enough we need to do better for the next generation.”

Cullen Jones’ full post:

View this post on Instagram

I have loved this country from the day I learned the star spangled banner, to the day I was blessed enough to stand atop the Olympic podium to recite it before the world. But enough is enough. For years I have kept my personal thoughts and convictions to myself. I must stand for what I believe in. As a Black man in America, I have dealt with my share of harassment. As a swimmer, I have always prided myself on breaking stereotypes and being a role model for others to do the same. But I cannot be quiet anymore. As a new father, I am continually thinking about how to raise my Indian/Black son, in this America. I don’t want him to have to fear the people who are meant to protect. I don’t want to have to teach him that it is his duty to linguistically disarm those same people by being calm and following directions so that the person with the gun feels more comfortable. Just because of the color of his skin. For all creeds, religions, and backgrounds protesting, the hurt is real. But the way we achieve justice is yes action, but through peace, communication and most important, at the polls. I pray for the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of racism. Enough is enough we need to do better for the next generation.

A post shared by Cullen Jones (@cullenjones) on

Cullen Jones was one of many to speak out on racial relations. Simone Manuel, Natalie Hinds and Katie Ledecky also weighed in Saturday as protests were happening.

Olympian Lia Neal took to YouTube to deliver her message and talk about how this is mentally and emotionally affecting people.

“I love the fact that social media is so powerful that it can bring things to light,” Neal said.

“More people are exposed to these uncomfortable things and happenings. They need to be. I need to be. We need to be in order to do something about it. … We feel so much hate in the world and it is inexcusable. We are being forced to face reality, and the reality is that everything is a mess and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We will get past this. Progress will be made, it is just a really (hard) time right now.”

Racial relations is an issue for all races — all people living

Olivia Smoliga posted a message reminding everyone that your neighbor’s gain is your gain and your neighbor’s loss is your loss.

“I’ve been trying to find the right words to say so I’ll just say this: we all lose when one of us loses, that’s what it should feel like. All the repetitive hatred and racial injustice that I see, the anguish our black friends, brothers sisters family feel, should be felt through all of us as we fight for change. We are so quick to look the other way, say it isn’t our problem, focus on all that’s ahead of us on our own path, but it’s up to all of us to speak up and stand for nothing less than justice and love. Because as Americans, as human beings, we should all be in this together. You can make a difference no matter how small. You can start by treating others the way you’d like to be treated. You can educate/donate/check on your black friends.

“I hope we swimmers all recognize that some of, if not the most influential swimmers of our generations have been black. Paving the way for others despite obvious barriers. Inspiring all of us to never give up in the face of adversity. Let us stand in solidarity with our friends, with justice. #blacklivesmatter

Hali Flickinger delivered this message, starting with an image that  as a white person, “I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand.”

I am angry, I am sad, I am frustrated that we still live in a world where the words “us” and “we” still do not truly have a unified meaning. I wait for a time when these words truly mean and include all human beings no matter the color of skin, but there is no waiting. Change must be done now. I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand. I am determined to be educated. I’m determined to speak out on the injustice and racism that continues to occur in our country. This has to stop and we must be better. I hear you and I’m here for you. #blacklivesmatter

The Ripple Effect

Earlier today, Swimming World issued an apology and explanation to Simone Manuel in relation to a developing story that was posted in stages and at one point appeared to play down the significance of the message she was delivering as an African-American athlete.

Craig Lord, Swimming World Editor-in-Chief, said:

“Swimmers are helping spread the message of unity and standing up for racial harmony. So often in history, we have seen bad events unfold against a backdrop of relative silence from those who could make a big difference if only they would find their voices. As such, what we hear from Cullen, Simone, Natalie and Lia is music to our ears. These messages are more powerful than perhaps they realize, though as we’ve seen with much else of late, the relative dawn of the Pro-Swim era has made athletes much more aware of the power of their voices to face betterment and change.

“So many people look up to Cullen Jones, Simone Manuel — and every athlete speaking out. That is why these messages need to be delivered — so the current and future generations of America — and the world — can come together in healing and progress.”