Athletes should be allowed to speak their mind like everyone else
By: Nathan Easington, Sports reporter (@Nateasington)
That is part of a tweet from basketball superstar Lebron James which was directed at President Donald Trump. The White House announced the long-standing tradition of inviting the reigning NBA champions, in this case the Golden State Warriors, to come to the White House, had been revoked. Shortly thereafter, Steph Curry publicly announced that he hadn’t planned on accepting the invitation to go to the White House. James and Curry are apart of dozens of players and coaches who are speaking out against problems they see in the United States and, more specifically, within the Trump administration. These men are squashing the idea that athletes should “stick to their sport,” when commenting to the media. This is not a new or recent phenomenon, and these athletes should cheered on rather than booed.
For decades, athletes have been going beyond their stats and sport and addressing issues which they believe in. For some athletes, speaking out about issues beyond their sport helped define their careers. For example, black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos who raised their fists in solidarity with the Black Power Movement during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. While Tommie Smith was stellar in his sport, he is not remembered because of his athletic accolades, but for the fact that he stood up for what he believed and made a stand. To this day, few may remember that Smith also played in the NFL after winning at the Olympics; but everyone can remember his clenched fist held high during the playing of the national anthem.
Today, professional athletes can’t escape questions beyond their stats and sports even if they wanted to. Tom Brady, who is perhaps one athlete who consistently sticks to questions about his sport, had to address questions from the media when a “Make American Great Again” cap was seen in his locker during a postgame interview. This past Sunday, Brady was again under the spotlight, not for his skill throwing a football, but for joining his teammates in locking arms during the national anthem as a way to protest comments made by President Trump about kneeling during the anthem.
Athletes who have gone beyond their sport and publicly speak about issues such as racial injustice have given a voice to those who would otherwise go ignored. It’s not only athletes; coaches have used their mics as well. Take, for example, Gregg Popovich, who is known for being stingy and somewhat curmudgeonly, who said on media day for the San Antonio Spurs
“Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that, but unless it is talked about constantly, it is not going to get better,” Popovich said.
Later on in the interview, Popovich, who is the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, said that the President was the cause of the United States looking like an “embarrassment to the world.”
A player or coach who decides to go beyond sports in order to stand up for what he/she believes has a right to do so. Athletes, and in some instances coaches, are some of the most famous and idolized people in America, if not on Earth. Typically, they are better liked than most political figures. It is therefore their duty to use this platform of sports to champion issues that are important to them, and to provide a voice for those who aren’t as famous. The idea of “sticking to sports” is at best a sweet notion and at worst a dangerous tool used by those who wish to silence conversations they’d rather not have. Athletes have gone beyond their stats and sports since the inception of sports in America. These courageous athletes are unlikely to stop any time soon, nor do I think they should.