On a stage in the heart of the University of Wisconsin campus, Aaron Rodgers had a crowd of 2,000 Badger students rocking. The reason, this time, wasn’t football as it has been so many times before for the Green Bay Packers quarterback. It was Congo and conflict minerals, Rodgers’ new-found political cause that he wanted to tell students -- and the world -- about.
That night in October, Rodgers added his name to a growing list of NFL players and athletes using their names and platforms to bring publicity to an issue they care about. Fellow football players Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Scott Fujita had been doing the same for LGBT rights and marriage equality for years. NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay in April. Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA on behalf of college athletes; current players protested the organization on the field in the fall. Brittney Griner is a walking symbol of gender-bending activism, Brandon Marshall took an NFL fine to raise awareness for mental health; Dwyane Wade and his Miami Heat teammates protested the killing of Trayvon Martin. More than a dozen athletes have spoken out against the Russian law targeting LGBT people ahead of the Olympics that will begin there in a month.