By: Patrick Waring
With the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Charleston tragedy and the debate over the Confederate flag, I asked myself what part should athletes or others in the public eye take in expressing their views. Whether or not they agree or accept it, athletes are viewed by many as role models. Young fans look up to their favorite players and often find themselves believing and repeating things that they say. Many in the common workplace are taught to avoid discussing abortion, politics and religion while at work or even in social settings. Following that rule can normally keep you out of issues with coworkers that don’t share your same beliefs and out of visiting with your friendly HR Department.
But athletes and celebrities are different. They often find themselves in front of a microphone and people are constantly searching for their quotes and comments. They not only represent themselves, they represent their organizations and the companies that endorse them. Bad decisions or use of words can cost them a lot of money and possibly their current position. With the help of social media, thoughts and views can be shared with the world in a matter of seconds. We have all read about or witnessed a controversial tweet that quickly raises eyebrows, followed by it being deleted and an apology from the sender. Some comments or opinions are kept, while others are explained as a mistake in judgment and a bad decision all together.
Should athletes speak out in support of or against decisions made by courts or politicians? Should they have a voice in social issues involving gender, sexual orientation, police brutality or race? And how should fans feel about their favorite player sharing a view that is opposite of their own?
I was at the Verizon Canter in December when the Georgetown Hoyas hosted the Kansas Jayhawks. The Hoyas left the court after early warm ups and returned wearing black t-shirts with “I Can’t Breathe” printed across the front. The words were the final used by Eric Garner, who was killed by a chokehold placed on him by a NY Police Officer during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes. It was not announced prior and they were the first collegiate team to do so at that point. This was a move that had already been made by Derrick Rose, LeBron James and the entire Los Angeles Lakers team. I quickly looked around and noticed that the majority of people in the crowd were clapping and nodding in approval. Nothing over the top, but you could tell that people were in acceptance of the statement made by John Thompson III’s team. The team later explained that the move was to honor the families that recently lost love ones. Garner, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and others. It was not to pick sides, but to pay respect to the families. I remember thinking that these young men just showed people that they loved the game of basketball, but they weren’t just basketball players.
I personally believe that athletes should express their opinions, if done so intelligently and thoughtfully. I think we all could do without profanity laced and hurtful messages, but it may not be a bad idea to hear or read what an athlete or your favorite franchise player has to say on social topics. That being said, we need to also realize that the star QB may not think the same way we do. They may not have grew up in the same environment or experienced the same things as their fans. I think we all need to learn to respect each other’s opinions and views because, like death and taxes, stories in the world will not stop.
You can follow me @WaringPatrick.
Be sure to follow @NutsAndBoltsSP and @bucketsanddimes for more sports updates.