Professional athletes have always had the platform to reach out to thousands of people based on their place among celebrities. Athletes that are on social media usually have thousands of followers while some have millions. Anything they post reaches thousands of people and these athletes can send any message they want using the platform they have.
With social media being so powerful in today’s society, many athletes are beginning to use their social platforms to speak out on politics. These political statements by athletes have caused much controversy as to whether athletes should be allowed to use the power of their athletic fame to make change and speak out on these topics.
A recent example of an athlete using their stature to send a message was Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem for a handful of games this past season . The message, according to Kaepernick, was about racism and how people of color are being oppressed in America. The backlash was evident with many people wanting Kaepernick to be punished for his actions saying he was disrespecting the military and those who defend it.
Kaepernick is currently a free agent and despite his talent and potential he has as a player, he has gone unsigned while many other quarterbacks who are unproven in the league have been. A handful of players have spoke out on Kaepernick’s behalf saying that he is being blackballed by NFL teams and the front offices, saying his actions cause a distraction.
When the current Super Bowl champions visited the White House recently, a handful of Patriots were noticeably absent. A few players such as Devin McCourty, Chris Long and the Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady were absent from the trip to D.C.
Brady, who is known to be a long-time friend of President Trump, was a surprise absence but tweets by his wife Gisele Bundchen saying her husband and herself did not support Trump may have been a reason for the quarterback not attending.
The trip to the White House is an honor most athletes usually enjoy and look forward to, but there was a change this year for a handful players who don’t support the current president. Devin McCourty said in a recent Green Stripe News video, “When my sons grow up, and I believe the legacy of our president is going to be what it is, I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey Dad, why’d you go when you knew the right thing was not to go?'”
While NFL players have been speaking out on political issues, there’s a belief that NFL players are hesitant to speak out on political issues due to the backlash they may receive and potential blackballing from NFL teams. This is not the case for NBA players who feel much more confident about speaking out on political issues than those in other sports leagues.
Players and teams in the NBA have taken a stand during the Black Lives Matters movement when Eric Garner, who died while in a chokehold by police officers, wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts which were the words Garner Spoke while being “restrained” by officers.
The T-shirts were a message symbolizing racism and police brutality. This is just one event of NBA players speaking out using their platform. Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul stood up as well and delivered a speech to open up the ESPY awards talking about stopping gun violence and the police brutality towards African Americans. It’s safe to say that NBA players feel more comfortable using their status to make a change than athletes in the NFL among other sports.
Athletes will continue to speak on social issues they feel strongly about, and the debate will continue whether professional athletes should be using their platform to speak out on political issues or not.