Thomas played basketball professionally for nine years and is also a published poet.

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Thomas played basketball professionally for nine years and is also a published poet.

February 20, 2018

Former NBA Basketball Player to Explore Role of Athletes in Social Activism

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Basketball star and social activist Etan Thomas will present his new book We matter: Athletes and Activism, a work on social activism among today’s athletes, on Tuesday.

His book, which will be released March 6, includes a collection of interviews and testimonies of 50 individuals, with commentary from Thomas, as well as athletes, activists, media personalities, scholars and the families of victims of police brutality.

“I am excited about Etan’s new book because it includes a lot of oral histories and other testimonies about people who have worked or are working at the intersection of sports and politics,” said Prof. Lawrence Glickman, the Stephen and Evelyn Milman Professor in American Studies.

Thomas will also visit Glickman’s class, HIST 1585: Sports and Politics in American History.

“My class is addressing a lot of questions of definitions,” Glickman said, including “What is politics?”

“I’m hoping for when he speaks in my class that he will discuss how we conceived politics, maybe how that is changed over time, and what role in particular athletes have to play in our political culture,” he said.

After finishing his collegiate career at Syracuse University as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Thomas started his professional career as the first round pick of the Dallas Mavericks. During his nine-year career, Thomas went on to play with the Washington Wizards, Oklahoma City Thunder and Atlanta Hawks.

While playing professionally, he received multiple honors for his social justice advocacy, including the 2010 National Basketball Players Association Community Contribution Award and the 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation Legacy Award.

As a writer, he has published a poetry collection and an autobiography, and his writings have appeared in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, CNN and ESPN.

“Etan Thomas has had an impressive career both as a professional basketball player and as a Renaissance man, who has acted, written poetry and political commentary,” Glickman said. “I’m hoping a lot of Cornell students will come out to hear him speak about his new book, about his career and about how sports and politics have long been interconnected.”

Thomas’s lecture will take place at 4:30 p.m. in Kaufmann Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall, with a book signing afterward.