Should Athletes suppress their political opinions? (2/1/16)

As an avid sports fan, I was scrolling through my phone and looking for updates on any sports news. While scrolling, I happened to come across and old picture of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James wearing “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up shirts before their games. Clearly, these shirts referenced the unfortunate, sad death of Eric Garner. Garner, who in July of 2014, was put in a choke hold, and after saying “I can’t breathe” multiple times, was killed in that choke hold by Daniel Pantaleo, a police officer. Later, of course a grand jury voted to not indict Pantaleo, which caused widespread protest across America. This of course, led to athletes such as Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and other professionals to wear the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts. Media outlets all over applauded these athletes.

I, however, feel this was a bad move by these professional athletes. This is not because I don’t feel remorse for Garner’s death, nor that athletes shouldn’t voice their opinions.  Athletes are role models and icons to so many people across the world. Media is attracted to them, and they get a ton of attention. Due to this, I feel athletes should keep controversial, political opinions to themselves. Athletes’ opinions can easily be transferred over to the many fans they have. While this isn’t a bad thing, it can easily be turned bad. These athletes have the ability to say and voice their opinions over many different issues, and it always gathers attention from the media. Fans, especially younger kids, can easily side with these athletes’ opinions, without even knowing the severity or background of the issue. This can lead to kids having a one-sided mindset.

Kobe Bryant (shown center) warms up with several Laker teammates in “I Can’t Breathe” shirts. President Obama would go on to commend him and others for it.  (Pic: Bleacher Report)

Now, I am not saying that athletes should not voice their opinions. I just feel when it comes to certain issues, athletes should refrain from publicly taking sides. By wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, athletes were formally taking the side of Eric Garner. Kids in my neighborhood, who saw these shirts, immediately took the side of Eric Garner, as well. I found this to be problematic, simply because many people were siding with him on the sole fact that athletes were behind him as well. There was no evidence or real logic behind it. People were quick to take the opinions of these athletes without even knowing any real background information on the issue. While Garner’s death was incredibly sad, there was still reason why he was in conflict with the police. While people are so quick to attack the police for killing Garner, people also are quick to overlook as to why Garner was even in a situation with the police as well.

Five St. Louis Rams players pay tribute to Michael Brown (2014) before their game against the Oakland Raiders. (Pic: CBS News)

Athletes can easily influence the opinions of their many fans. Another example can be seen with Michael Brown. Many athletes vocally supported Brown, and claimed he had done nothing wrong.  The St. Louis Rams even made a public display out of it. This opinion was soon similarly voiced by many other younger people. It turns out that Brown had actually attacked the police officer, and that there was no evidence that he ever had his hands up. Despite knowing all the information, many people were quick to side against the police.

Athletes are a powerful tool in the large shed of American media. Their abilities to attract and awe their fans on a nightly basis shouldn’t turn us away from any opinions we might initially have. Athletes can voice their opinions, but I think they should stay away from controversial, political topics, as they can easily influence the opinions of many.

I hope you all enjoyed this blog post. It is on a topic that wasn’t necessarily on current news, but I couldn’t help but voice my opinions. Let me know what you think.





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