DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 10: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event was hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 10: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event was hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Now playing
02:57
Andrew Yang hoops it up with NBA legend Dominique Wilkins
This screen grab from a Zoom call shows New York Mets general manager Jared Porter Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Mets general manager Jared Porter sent graphic, uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 when he was working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office, ESPN reported Monday night, Jan. 18, 2021.
This screen grab from a Zoom call shows New York Mets general manager Jared Porter Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Mets general manager Jared Porter sent graphic, uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 when he was working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office, ESPN reported Monday night, Jan. 18, 2021.
PHOTO: AP
Now playing
01:08
NY Mets fire GM after he reportedly sent explicit pictures to female reporter In 2016
Fortnite Global Football Pele Cup
Fortnite Global Football Pele Cup
PHOTO: Epic Games
Now playing
02:45
Football and Pelé join forces with Fortnite
An unidentified tennis player exercises in her hotel room in Melbourne in January 17, 2021, where players are quarantining for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
An unidentified tennis player exercises in her hotel room in Melbourne in January 17, 2021, where players are quarantining for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
03:32
Australian Open: Controversy surrounds tournament as players complain of lack of practice
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 12: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors shoots a free throw during the game against the Phoenix Suns on February 12, 2020 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 12: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors shoots a free throw during the game against the Phoenix Suns on February 12, 2020 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Michael Gonzales/NBAE/Getty Images
Now playing
02:44
'They're not protesters, they're terrorists:' The NBA reacts strongly to the US Capitol riot
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United scores his team
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United scores his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford on July 04, 2020 in Manchester, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Pool via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Pool/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Now playing
01:20
Marcus Rashford on Manchester United getting penalties
PHOTO: Elizabeth Williams
Now playing
04:03
The WNBA Dream that turned into a political triumph
CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States takes a corner kick during the 2020 CONCACAF Women
CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States takes a corner kick during the 2020 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying against Mexico at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 7, 2020 in Carson, California. the United States defeated Mexico, 4-0, and qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
01:03
Megan Rapinoe condemns US Capitol rioters as 'White supremacist mob'
A man walks along a corridor past an official Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics advertisement board in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo on November 30, 2020. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)
A man walks along a corridor past an official Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics advertisement board in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo on November 30, 2020. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: PHILIP FONG/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
03:32
Olympic prep continues in Tokyo despite Covid-19 state of emergency
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods
PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS, JR. FOR foureleven.agency / HBO
Now playing
03:42
'He's not going to like this sh*t at all': Documentary shines new light on Tiger Woods
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on in a game against the Charlotte Hornets at Wells Fargo Center on January 04, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on in a game against the Charlotte Hornets at Wells Fargo Center on January 04, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
00:59
Doc Rivers on DC riots: 'Could you imagine today, if those were all Black people?'
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Bruce Maxwell #13 of the Oakland Athletics kneels in protest next to teammate Mark Canha #20 duing the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of the game against the Texas Rangers at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 24, 2017 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Bruce Maxwell #13 of the Oakland Athletics kneels in protest next to teammate Mark Canha #20 duing the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of the game against the Texas Rangers at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 24, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
05:03
Bruce Maxwell took a knee and then his life unravelled in Trump's America
PHOTO: Thais Magalhães/CBF
Now playing
01:41
Animals ruled the sporting world in 2020
PHOTO: Luke Willett
Now playing
01:14
Speed golf is the form of the game you never knew you needed
emily harrington el capitan free climb record golden gate woman equality spt intl lon orig cmd_00000000.png
emily harrington el capitan free climb record golden gate woman equality spt intl lon orig cmd_00000000.png
Now playing
02:58
Emily Harrington makes history on El Capitan
PHOTO: Instagram / Silky.ZigZag
Now playing
02:52
Silke Sollfrank wants to encourage more women to take up parkour
(CNN) —  

In the United States these days, it’s sometimes hard to say anything without offending someone.

Political discourse has become pervasive. You could easily poison a social gathering by mentioning President Donald Trump, the Democrats or the impeachment hearings.

Sport used to be a safe place and an escape. Sport had the power to unite us, but even that became toxic in the era of Trump.

When athletes like the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and soccer star Megan Rapinoe spoke up about social inequality, they were demonized by many on the right and labeled “unpatriotic.” Basketball icon Lebron James has also made headlines for his social commentary.

They are leaders on the field of play, but in these partisan times, can professional athletes possibly speak for all of us in society?

Andrew Yang thinks that they can. Yang is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he told me recently that to disregard the perspective of professional athletes would be foolish.

“Athletes are parents, they’re human beings first and foremost,” said Yang.

Andrew Yang and Kamala Harris, who recently ended her 2020 presidential bid, take part in November
Andrew Yang and Kamala Harris, who recently ended her 2020 presidential bid, take part in November's Democratic primary debate.
PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

“I think athletes get pushed into a role where we forget they’re human beings. I mean, athletes have, you know, struggles and anxieties and family problems just like anyone else.

“The fact is athletes are among the most admired people in American life. And so if you were to say to athletes, ‘just stay in your lane,’ it would actually make no sense to me or most Americans.”

I was speaking with Yang on a basketball court in Atlanta, where he was taking a break from the rigors of campaigning.

Shooting hoops alongside him was one of the legends of the game, Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, an athlete who’s comfortable working on either side of the aisle. Wilkins once teamed up with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – a Republican – to tackle diabetes. The initiative was called Nique and Newt’s Full Court Press.

“I’ve got two special needs kids,” Wilkins told me. “No one can tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I live with it, and my kids live with it.

“I have a responsibility to reach out and find every avenue that I can to give them a quality of life. It’s got nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with being a parent. That’s what I’m about, empowering people to help themselves.”

Visit CNN.com/sport for more news, videos and features

Dominique Wilkins enjoyed an NBA career that spanned 17 years.
Dominique Wilkins enjoyed an NBA career that spanned 17 years.
PHOTO: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Yang is a political outsider, but he’s rapidly made a name for himself in the battlefield of American politics. He’s a serious long shot for the White House, but going into the 2020 primary fight, he’s featured in all five of the Democratic presidential debates so far, outlasting better-known rivals like Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris.

He’s quirky, he isn’t afraid of dropping the odd profanity on the campaign trail and he’s embraced previously taboo topics like the threat of automation and a universal basic income.

Yang’s digital-savvy supporters are devoted and organized, earning Yang the nickname the “internet’s favorite candidate.”

As we’re talking, Yang and Wilkins are dribbling around the basket, peppering it with shots, the latter with considerably more success. Yang is undeterred, he’s a bundle of energy, checking in on his wife and young son, cackling uncontrollably at any element of misfortune.

“Some of my fondest memories growing up are of playing basketball as the sun goes down, pretending there’s still enough light in the driveway,” he says.

“You keep playing until someone runs into something and then you have to stop. There’s not a rule that says running for president should be a slog all the time. The fact is that our country could use a bit of an uplift.

“Hopefully, seeing people having fun, doing some exercise, playing a game of hoops. I think it’s very positive.”

That leads us onto one of the topics that he’s most passionate about – encouraging our children to play sport, luring them away from the hypnotic spell of technology.

Yang is painting a dystopian view of our future, in which automation creates landscapes of vast unemployment and a population zombified by their screens.

“We have to start facing facts about what technology is doing to our kids. We’re seeing record levels of anxiety, depression and stress. Parents are literally facing off against a trillion-dollar industry that is mesmerizing our kids.

“As president I’ll say, ‘You know what’s more important than these company’s wallets? Our kids’ mental health.’”

Politically active athletes may be polarizing, but there might still be some policies upon which we could all agree. Creating a healthier environment for our children is perhaps one of them; maybe there is still a world in which the power of sport can unite us.