Paper 1 Prompt – Athletes, Activism and Politics

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In the last few years, prominent professional athletes have become vocal participants in some of the most important and controversial issues being debated in our society. They have used their fame and media platforms to advance positions, respond to current events, amplify unheard voices, and bring attention to causes.

While some admire these athletes for standing up for their beliefs, others see them as unqualified to speak on such complex issues. In 2017, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham famously told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” when he criticized President Trump. Since coming to office, President Trump himself has criticized a wide range of vocal athletes and coaches including LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, Steve Kerr, and Greg Popovich. Other critics of these vocal athletes have argued that sports is capable of uniting a divided country. As a result, they say, there is no place for politics in sports. Just this month, the International Olympic Committee has announced that “gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling” are prohibited on the field, podium or in the Olympic Village.

Guiding Questions

In this project, you will read, talk and think about a range of viewpoints in the ongoing debate about the proper relationship between professional sports and politics in an effort to construct your own answers to some of the following questions:

  • Should professional athletes “stick to sports” or should they speak out on matters that they care about?
  • Besides sports, what issues, ideas and experiences are these controversies about?
  • What qualifies someone to have a view on a topic that is worth listening to?
  • Are all points of view on a topic equal?
  • Can there be points of view on a topic that don’t deserve a hearing?
  • What do professional athletes risk by speaking out on topics they care about?
  • Why do some people get so upset when an athlete speaks out about an issue?
  • What are appropriate responses to points of view you (or others) might find unacceptable?
  • Are there limits to free speech?


To write this paper, you will need to:

  • Gather information and perspectives by reading and discussing the views of other writers on this topic (some of whom you may disagree with) with your classmates.
  • Fairly and accurately represent the current state of the conversation by understanding and representing (summarizing) the key points of debate in the conversation.
  • Move the conversation forward by formulating and developing your own point of view as a response to what other writers have written.
  • Use direct quotation and paraphrase to bring the ideas of other writers into your paper (as support, to analyze, or to critique).

Successful students will:

  • Complete all homework assignments on time.
  • Use homework assignments to deepen your understanding of the debate and practice designated reading and writing skills.
  • Submit a complete draft that meets word count expectations on time.
  • Participate effectively in peer review and class discussion.
  • Thoroughly revise and develop their work after initial drafts.
  • Meet or exceed final word count expectations.
  • Support classmates’ efforts.