Editor’s Note: Athletes don’t have to stay out of politics

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, the NBA began to allow players to display approved slogans on their jerseys while they play. 

Some of the slogans included Black Lives Matter, Say Her Name, I Can’t Breathe, Equality and Education Reform, all of which are pointed messages about racial injustice and other interrelated social issues. 

With this, there was an absurd amount of fans who were angered about the fact that players were allowed to express themselves politically, never mind the fact that these same fans have no qualms whatsoever about expressing their own views. 

When these athletes began to share their stances, many social media comments, posts and tweets were directed at them telling them to “stay out of politics,” and “stick to sports.” 

It’s funny how mad fans were at these basic political expressions. With all things considered, the approved NBA slogans are just about the least disruptive political display possible.

Perhaps if peoples’ line of thinking was that celebrities should stay silent and leave politics to those who have more policy experience and knowledge, then I could at least begin to see their case.

But more often than not, these critics tell athletes to stay silent, while simultaneously sounding off online as much as they possibly can.

I’ve never understood what makes fans think that they have a right to share their own political opinions while expecting athletes to stay entirely silent on their own. Celebrities have a right to share their personal beliefs and opinions as much as any other citizen.

These fans may be so resistant to hearing their favourite athlete’s political views because they don’t want to have to view them as “human,” but rather as empty and opinionless icons—as mere entertainment.   

It’s not lost on me that, at least in some cases, many people seem to forget that their favourite public figures serve as more than just an escape from reality for a couple hours while they play the game. They are equally, if not moreso, affected by these movements than the average viewer is, especially when you consider that Black players make up about 80 per cent of the NBA. 

Some may say that players and leagues should avoid or disallow political messaging because it irritates viewers who want to enjoy the game, free from the troubling political climate.

But it’s not just a game, at least not for the players. It’s their whole livelihood. It would be a huge labour issue if they weren’t allowed to speak up on issues that affect their work. 

If fans are so up-in-arms about athletes supporting Black Lives Matter, shouldn’t they be mad about UFC fighter Colby Covington proudly displaying his support for #MAGA? That’s political too, is it not? 

Or is it just about silencing athletes who have opinions that diverge from your own? 

Sports figures won’t stay silent anymore when it comes to politics and they shouldn’t be expected to, either.

Many athletes have shown that they are willing to stand up for what they believe in, even if it costs them their careers. That’s more than many viewers could say. 

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