Black Athletes are more than Just Athletes
American professional sports is a large part of American Popular culture. The countries four major professional sports leagues in the United States are Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). Although the NHL does not have a lot of black athletes, the remaining leagues have a tremendous number of highly regarded black athletes. (Johk, n.d.) With that said, black professional sports players are not just mere athletes, they are legitimate human beings who have the absolute right to speak and protest freely regarding political issues and injustices.
Being a professional athlete does not mean one forfeits his right to express yourself in the same manner as your fellow Americans. (Globe, n.d.) This is a misconception circulated by far too many people. (Glaspher, n.d.) This is especially the case with black athletes though, whose opinions are too frequently delegitimized. (Glaspher, n.d.). They should be considered for more than their ability to simply entertain but also for thoughts, opinions, feelings, and experiences (Glaspher, n.d.) Currently, there are many clashing opinions on political issues in the USA. (Glaspher, n.d.) This has brought about the opportunity for athletes to speak on vital political topics. (Glaspher, n.) However, their opinions are not always welomed by all which is extremely unfortunate and unfair. This came up earlier this month when Fox News personality Laura Ingraham chastised LeBron James and Kevin Durant for unfavorable comments they made about President Donald Trump during a video podcast the NBA superstars did with Cari Champion of ESPN for James’s multimedia platform, Uninterrupted. (Glaspher, n.) Ingraham, a conservative policitcal commentator for Fox News, mocked and depreciated James and Durant for their grammar while also depreciating their comments on Trump, refering to their comments as ignorant. She admonished James and Durant to “keep the political commentary to yourself or as someone once said, shut up and dribble.” She seemed to be genuinely offended that professional athletes would have the audacity to discuss the president of the United States (Glaspher, n.).
The point of her insight went beyond suggesting that athletes do not know what they are talking about, but to having no right to comment about politics in general. Shamefully, this is not just an instance of one reporter as many people feel that way. However, the fact of the matter is that athletes do not surrender their right to participate in political discourse just because they wear a uniform. They have the same constituational rights as any other citizen and deserve to be respected as such. (Glasphner, n.)
CBS Sports broadcaster and former Harvard basketball player James Brown hosted a forum on athlete activism in September at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Brown dismissed the notion that athletes are required to refrain from social or political commentary.(Glasphner, .)
“It’s interesting that people have the attitude of ‘stick to sports,’ ’’ said Brown. “Athletes are very much a part of the community, absolutely citizens like anybody else. People say, ‘Well, why don’t they take their advocacy to another arena?’ Are you kidding me? Are they supposed to marginalize their feelings like they don’t have an impact. It’s a shame that people have to have that colonial mind-set of ‘stick to sports.” Brown’s comments further illustrate the idea that athletes have the right to express themselves. (Whack, n.d.)
Although many citizens would prefer players stick to sports, various black athletes have chosen to protest, which has led to people feeling uncomfortable (Wright-Riguer, n.d.). Despite the fact that the whole purpose of the outspoken comments and the kneeling (during the national anthem) is to get appropriate attention and raise awareness to police brutality and systematic racism throughout the United States (Wright-Riguer, n.d.). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA Hall Of Famer) said in an interview with The Associated Press: “These are the people that ignore the fact that people are being shot dead in the street. They’ve found ways to ignore it.”(Wright-Riguer, n.d.) The overall fact of that matter is that each black persons America is different than the average white person. (Summers, n.d.). Each black individuals America is differs from whites, simply walking down the street while black can be a liability that costs you your life. (Summers, n.d.) Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback began kneeling ahead of the 2016 season, telling NFL Media that “there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. His initial action has provoked many black athletes to protest as well.
Donald Trump, (President of the United States) suggested that NFL owners should fire their players as a result of their protesting.(Summers, n.d.) This suggests that each player is only respectable because of his ability to play football, and not respected as a human being with his own set of beliefs. (Summers, n.d.) In Trumps America, athletes that voice opinions he disagrees with should lose their jobs for speaking out. He used the term “son of a bitch” to describe them as he said they should be removed from the field. The disparity in respecting black opinions and white opinions is disgraceful. (Summers, n.d.)
In conclusion, America should invite all members of society whether athletes or not to voice their opinion and stand up for their basic civil liberties. Black athletes should not just shut up and dribble, or shut up and play their respective sport. They should freely express their personal opinions as they choose, while being respected and encouraged to do so.