They could stay quiet. They could stay home.

Instead, as protests turn violent in the middle of a 100-year pandemic, a number of athletes have chosen to write and march and post. They are the core of millennials and Generation Z, groups often dismissed as uninterested. Perhaps they recognize that, between the diseases of racism and COVID-19, their futures are in peril. So they are interested. And they are inspiring.

So many athletes with so much to lose are saying and doing so many things that mean so much to America. They risk losing endorsements and fans and friends. They risk their futures. If they march, as many have done, they risk their lives.

They are Bryce Harper and Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz, posting messages of unity and peace rooted in their religious beliefs.

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I’ve been trying to come up with words for this post. Trying to write the right things and trying to get my mind and heart wrapped around this. I grew up on the East Side of Las Vegas around many different cultures knowing one thing — My parents taught me to love everyone equally, regardless of the color of their skin, where they came from, young or old. Our Heavenly Father made us this way, as unique individuals, so we would all come together and do everything we could to get back to him one day. To love one another, to build each other up, to root for one another, and to be ONE with each other. I will never know what it is like to be an African American man, woman, or child. The one thing I do know is I will always stand with them and for them. I will always be there when they need me. I will always have their backs, knowing they have always had mine. I will love my brothers and sisters and will teach my son to love all as well. To the Floyd family, and to all the other families that have experienced trauma, loss of life, inequality, racism, and hatred - I am so sorry for that. This world that we live in should have no room for it. We as Americans have to come together and stop this in all walks of life. I will listen, speak up, love, stand, and act for what I believe is right. I will never stop!! I love you all my brothers and sisters! We are ONE!✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

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They are Phillies cleanup hitter Rhys Hoskins, who admits he’s dumbstruck by the anguish of black people.

They are Ben Simmons, who called out President Donald Trump’s cowardice after peaceful protesters were tear-gassed to clear a walkway from the White House to a nearby church, where he staged a photo opportunity. The tear gas affected a priest at the church who was run off the property by stormtroopers. Church leadership condemned Trump’s presence. Fittingly, Trump held a Bible upside-down.

“It’s really wonderful to see,” retired Eagles executive John Wooten said of the players’ responses.

Wooten, 83, was a Pro Bowl guard who played with Jim Brown in Cleveland and spent his last 15 years helping black football coaches get jobs in the NFL with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, capping a lifetime advocating for equal rights, usually without the support of his white peers. “In my time, things were different, and the media, and social media, that wasn’t the same.”

The mainstream media today includes more people of color. Social media has amplified everyone’s voice, and many athletes have mastered its use.

Athletes such as Sixers forward Tobias Harris and former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who marched in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Jenkins, a co-founder of the Players Coalition LINK, offered an eloquent explanation on Twitter of the worldwide reaction to what he considers an epidemic of black men unjustly dying at the hands of the police, most recently George Floyd, killed last week by a white cop who knelt on his neck for 9 minutes.

Harris, who has become the most service-oriented athlete in the Philadelphia community, is driving an effort to oust Montgomery County commissioner Joseph C. Gale. On Monday, on his official letterhead, Gale characterized the #BlackLivesMatter organization as a “hate group.”

Second-year Eagles running back Miles Sanders went a different route, celebrating #blackouttuesday, which began as the music industry’s initiative to pause business for a day to focus on racial injustice and has spread to actors, athletes, and other celebrities.

They aren’t just tweeting and 'gramming; some are literally walking the walk. Celtics players Enis Kantor and Marcus Smart joined protests in Boston. Celtics guard Jaylen Brown and Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon went to Atlanta to protest in their home state. Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves’ biggest star, protested in the city where George Floyd was killed.

Others are explaining to the masses what has brought America to this point. Phillies center fielder Andrew McCutchen, despairing of the police policing themselves, co-authored a plea for Congress to ensure that officers like the ones who were involved with the death of Floyd be shielded less by their superiors and their peers. This was the original, chief complaint when Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem in 2016.

Those sorts of explanations might help fellow athletes such as white Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, who on Twitter admitted his ignorance of the enormity of the issues his black teammates endure. The topic dominated a virtual team meeting Monday morning.

On Instagram, Flyers forward James van Reimsdyk echoed Elliott’s words and pledged to listen better.

These are new, young voices, but there are strong, old voices, too; none more eloquent or eviscerating as Gregg Popovich, as usual. The legendary San Antonio Spurs coach, who is white, proactively reached out to The Nation so he could let the world know he considers Trump a dim-witted “stooge” of puppet-master reactionaries in government, whose routine violations of the U.S. Constitution since Trump took office led Popovich to deem these protests “necessary."

Not all of the messages were as visceral. Some were clearly sanitized, like Tiger Woods’ stilted tweet that offered sympathy for Floyd but, with a tone-deafness that reeks of PGA privilege, diminished what protesters consider routine, systematic, institutional brutality by police.

But even Tiger’s message was authentic. It is, after all, who he is. Tellingly, lifelong rival Phil Mickelson, who is white, offered a more resonant post on Instagram supporting #blackouttuesday.

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#BlackoutTuesday

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All of the messages inspired hope, if merely by their existence. And, most importantly, none of them was necessary. All were sent with a measure of risk for the senders.

They risk alienating millions of people; mostly conservatives, but plenty of lounge-chair liberals, too.

They have, or one day will have, young children, who will be taught in their schools by some right-leaning teachers. Their children will play down the street with children of their right-leaning neighbors. Many have right-leaning friends and relatives, so Thanksgivings and Christmases and barbecues could become contentious.

But these millennial millionaires recognize the moment. These Gen-Z heroes are here for it.