Athletes aren't dumb jocks. We're the face of change.

Like it or not, kids look up to sports figures. And many have had their hearts broken by shoddy “models” like Lance Armstrong, Ray Rice, Ben Johnson, Aaron Hernandez and many others who have cheated or committed violent crimes. Their sins were selfish or indulgent rage. Today’s enlightened athlete may anger fans—undoubtedly some misguided people were enraged two years ago by LeBron James and fellow NBA athletes wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to protest the police killing of unarmed African-American Eric Garner, while several NFL players joined the protest with similar attire or the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture popularized after Michael Brown suffered a similar fate—but the athletes do so not to promote their own careers, but a stronger, more just America.

There are dangers, too, of athletes speaking out. We don’t always get it right. I admire retired NBA superstar Charles Barkley for joining NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in publicly calling for the NBA to keep the 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina in protest to the state’s discriminatory law against the LGBT community by saying, “With the position of power that I’m in… I’m supposed to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves.” Yet, his comments this week blaming much of the black community for its struggles are simplistic, factually inaccurate and dangerous. I also remember back in 2014 when he publicly supported corporal punishment against children, which also showed how athletes must be careful in choosing what to support. “Whipping—we do that all the time,” he said then. “Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.” His defense of cultural tradition flew in the face of science: This year, an analysis of more than 50 years’ worth of studies concluded that children who were spanked, even occasionally, were more likely to defy their parents, have mental health problems and be anti-social. And next week, former NFL player Tim Tebow will advocate for Donald Trump, who’s advocated unconstitutional policies against people of color as well as against religious freedom. Our celebrity is not a shield against ignorance—it’s a demand for public responsibility.