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Louisville defensive back uses platform as Division I athlete to join in call for change in society

By Rocco Gasparro
University of Louisville

University of Louisville defensive back Anthony Johnson isn’t sitting idle when it comes to racial injustice and social issues within the community.

The junior, who was a key component on the defense last season, is using his platform as a Division I athlete to provoke change, not only in the city of Louisville but nationally. He is back on campus and was hesitant during the pandemic, but the two-year player thought the time was now.

“I just thought, ‘Why wait? This is happening now so I feel like this would be the best time,'” Johnson said.

Louisville’s Anthony Johnson (left) will be battling for a starting cornerback position this season. (UofL photo)

Protests have sparked around the country with countless people taking to the streets of their cities to voice their displeasure with racial injustice and police brutality in the world. None more prevalent than in the city of Louisville, where protests have dominated the certain parts of the city.

“Through sports, all the hate and stuff leaves the window,” Johnson said. “You mix with different guys from all across the world and different races, different backgrounds and religions. Just being able to meet with the team and see how they feel about the situation, it was a really good deal.”

Johnson was integral in directing the team to walk the Big Four Bridge in Louisville, hoping that they could invoke change, not as athletes, but as young African American men. Johnson and his teammates met with coaches and administrators to discuss what path of action they wanted to take, and it was decided that walking as a team was the best plan to be heard.

“We wanted to go out without our jerseys,” Johnson said. “We wanted to be seen not as UofL athletes, but as law-abiding citizens and just have a peaceful protest. We wanted to promote positivity and we love each other, and that there is no hate. It was a positive act for our football team.”

Each Saturday, Johnson and his teammates head on to the field, battling their opponents tooth and nail for 60 minutes using their talent to try to win a football game.

However, over the last couple of weeks, Johnson is using his other talents to win off the field.

“Despite our athletic abilities, we are able to have regular conversations and are educated. We are loving, caring and just things like that versus just seeing us scoring touchdowns or making tackles,” Johnson said. “We wanted to show a different approach to the community. We love everyone, if you are a Cardinal fan or not.”

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A Florida native, Johnson has tried to be a leader on the team, and with racial injustice at the forefront of the conversation, Johnson wanted to use his voice and stature to set up.

“I felt like this was my opportunity to take the initiative for the guys who didn’t want to speak up and show that we are all in this together and that no matter what we can lean on each other,” Johnson said. “I just took this as an opportunity to show what God is doing in my life and hopefully touch someone, even if it’s just one person to touch someone and help change someone. That was my approach.”

Johnson, who will be battling for the starting corner position, is proud to have a voice that is likely to be heard because of their place in the city.

“Being college athletes, we have one of the biggest platforms there is. They try to minimize it … but throughout this process, our teammates speaking out is good,” Johnson said. “Not to hold those emotions in, but to really show how they feel and get it off their chest and not to have resentment or anything inside.

“Just to express themselves and not feel judged or feel like they have to sugarcoat their tweets or whatever they’re posting because they will be judged but just to be free to post and knowing they’ll be respected and hear their voice will be heard.”

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