Broncos LT Ryan Harris takes a stand against Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric

There’s a reason why many of us turn on Sports Center in the morning or read sites like Mile High Sports during our lunch break at work: We’re trying to escape from things like politics; things that actually matter.

Sports, before all else, is a game; it’s fun. Sure, we create drama about the smallest of news, but whether or not Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler should start at quarterback for the Denver Broncos pales in comparison to who should be the next President of the United States.

But again, that’s why we love sports. Sometimes we just need to get away from the pain, tragedy and duress that dominates our world today, and we need to spend a few hours worrying whether an extremely athletic man can push a ball past a goal line or into a hoop.

And that’s fine. And it’s important. And it’s understandable. But sometimes sports gives us, and the players that play them, an opportunity to stand up and make a difference in the outside world, the real world. That’s exactly what Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Harris did this week.

Harris spoke to Lindsay Jones of USA Today and explained how the community of Muslim athletes have found it difficult to respond to the increasingly anti-Muslim remarks of Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“As Muslims, anyone who murders, kills, does anything like that, it is so against the tenets of Islam, that it doesn’t even warrant a response. It’s like (Donald) Trump’s comments don’t even warrant a response. But now we’re at a point where we have to say something,” Harris said.

For Harris, his desire to speak out stems from Trump’s response to President Obama’s peach from last Sunday night addressing the increased anti-Muslim sentiment burning through America following the attack in San Bernardino, California, last week.

“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors; our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform,” President Obama said.

Trump was quick to respond on Twitter.

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At first, Harris wasn’t sure he wanted to speak out — he had always been accepted by his teammates no matter his religion — but after Trump’s comments, and many others like it, he felt he needed to help make the voice of the Muslim athlete heard.

“People need to know, I have had the best experience being Muslim both at Notre Dame and in NFL. Every single one of my coaches has respected me, asked me about it. My teammates ask me about it. I have never experienced any xenophobia in the NFL,” Harris said. “You talk about Muhammad Ali, you talk about in Houston — Hakeem Olajuwon. Every single sports fan in Houston knows about fasting, Ramadan, and Islam because Hakeem fasted. You know what I mean? In Kansas City, people know Husain Abdullah. It’s such a contrast to what you’re seeing with the xenophobic hate speech. But it’s having an effect, and it’s unfortunate.”

And Harris isn’t the only person fighting back against the ignorant beliefs expressed by Trump; Muhammad Ali released a similar statement earlier this week, too.

And as Harris says, neither he nor Ali are necessarily speaking for themselves; they’re well-respected athletes who are praised for their success much more than they’re criticized for their beliefs. They’re speaking for those who don’t have the same platform they have.

“In all of my years of being Muslim, I feel this is the most tense it’s been in terms of Muslims having a lot of fear. Not as much me — I mean, I’m 300 pounds, I’ll be OK. But for the Muslim woman who wears a hajib and goes to work, or the Muslim kid in school right now, it’s tough.”

So to answer Donald Trump’s original question: Yes, there are Muslim athletes, and men like Ryan Harris, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Muhammad Wilkerson, Aqib Talib, Rashaan Salaam and Kenneth Faried aren’t just great athletes and Muslims; they’re great people.

And if he’s curious about any more great Muslim athletes, he can check out this awesome list from Fustion.net.

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