Being at the absolute top of almost any profession is cause for celebrity in most cases. Top lawyers, top journalists, the best doctors and scientists, and the wealthiest bankers are not seen infrequently in the headlines. While we don’t always hear about the best bus driver or factory worker, jobs that are in the public eye or earn a lot of money are often known throughout a country. The best example of this is probably actors and sports stars.
It’s not uncommon, especially for entertainers, to use their fanbase and celebrity to raise awareness for political campaigns, causes they support or are opposed to—John Lennon and Jane Fonda both had very public anti-war activities during the 60s and 70s—and shift the public spotlight on to causes.
While some people feel that celebrities should stick to what made them famous, their role in society as people of prominence allows them to shine light on topics that might not otherwise get much press coverage—and subsequent public discussion. And in many cases sports stars have made huge contributions to society both after and during their professional careers.
World champion boxer Amir Khan as attracted attention lately by teaming up with Penny Appeal to fight social injustice. Football star David Beckham support many charities such as United Against AIDS and UNICEF. Beyond individuals there are even either organisations that focus on the role athletes play in a broader society such as the very aptly named Athletes For Charity.
Khan is by no means an exception. One of the most successful campaigns conducted by a famous athlete was Michael Jordan in the 1990s and his campaign to raise awareness of and fight AIDS. As someone with HIV/AIDS himself he put one of the most public faces onto a usually fatal and utterly devastating disease.
A more recent example of a sporting legend tackling social problems is record-holing American cyclist Lance Armstrong. Struck by cancer, how the world-class cyclist fought cancer and continued his already impressive cycling career became the stuck of tabloid coverage as well as more prestigious discourse. He survived and continues to work with charities that raise money for cancer sufferers and cancer treatment research.
Despite some people’s rather cynical opinion that celebrities only engage in charity work in order to boost their own profile, their intervention and profile has and continues to lead to positive changes for societies around the world.