Conviction – a fixed or firm belief
During the days leading up to the funeral of Muhammed Ali, I came across an old picture of Ali with Bruce Jenner. During the late 1970’s these were two of the most celebrated athletes in America. Another athlete among that seemed to be everywhere was O.J. Simpson. But as we laid Ali to rest and showered his memory with praise and adulation, O.J. rots away in a jail cell while Bruce is now Caitlyn.
How did we see such divergent paths in the span of 40 plus years? In my opinion, it all comes down to one word.
Ali had to have a strong one in order to exist. Think about his stands on religion, the Vietnam War, conditions of the Black community, and declaring his own identity and think about just how unpopular these views were on America and what it cost him. We know O.J. wanted nothing to do with having any opinions about the Black community. Jenner never had to face this but his own questions about his sexuality lends one to think there wasn’t the same resolve.
Conviction isn’t easy. It won’t win a person any popularity contests nor will it make them any extra money. It doesn’t lend to spotlights unless someone has an agenda to turn conviction into a negative. Conviction is a lonely road that normally leads to solitary islands.
I believe we are a society that only wants to feel good. We’ll take the easy route a far greater amount of times. We tend to sway with the direction that the wind blows. If a famous person says what we think it’s good, we’ll adapt it as our own because we feel better because of a perceived connection to that person.
We don’t require our stars to be vocal. We need them for our escape mechanisms, to give us a feeling of accomplishment when we see them perform. Having an athlete or entertainer having a strong opinion about societal or political endeavors bothers them and with social media it’s easy to lash out without consequence. Unless there’s a safe place to stand that won’t hurt their popularity, most just won’t go there.
In the past, there was no such thing as a safe space. Speaking out was a risk that could cost someone their livelihood. Ali lost three years of his prime for his stance against the Vietnam War. Jackie Robinson has very outspoken about America and its treatment of the Black community. He never worked in any capacity in baseball once he retired.
Would any of today’s stars would be able to stand like that? No, because they don’t have to. Times have changed and that type of conviction. But there are still issues and concerns that are going on in the world. It’s not enough to just show your face when it’s safe. It’s definitely not good to say nothing. A stand has to be taken and conviction has to be strong, even if it goes against the grain.