Should Athletes Just Shut Up, Play Ball and Stay Out of Politics?
Tensions rose on sports fields around the country as athletes spoke out about their political views during the 2017 presidential election. Many players received a lot of backlash for their strong opinions and how they chose to show them.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, was one of the first to voice his opinion by kneeling during the national anthem early in the 2016-17 season.
“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 told various NFL-related media.
Kaepernick received a lot of criticism not only from sports watchers, but also from other NFL players. Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward spoke out about Kaepernick’s protest on his Instagram in August 2016.
“If you want to make a point or take a stand, go straight after the root of that cause,” said Ward. “Don’t disrespect the whole country or the organization that’s paying you millions of dollars.”
NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar showed full support of Kaepernick’s protests in a Washington Post article, where he states that the failure to address racism in America is “what’s really un-American here.”
Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots tight end, also chose to take a stand against politics by skipping the White House visit after winning the 2017 Super Bowl.
“I don’t support the guy that’s in the House,” said Bennett.
Several other Patriots opted out of the post-championship White House visit.
“I will not be going to the White House,” said running back LeGarrette Blount. “I do not feel welcome in that house. I’ll leave it at that.”
These protests have sparked widespread controversy. People all over the country are debating whether athletes should express their views about off-field issues like politics.
According to a study done by Ohio University, the NFL represents 80% of all television programming in homes, making it the most watched program throughout the entire 17-week season.
The study shows that 67% of millennials don’t trust NFL players. According to Ohio University, this is a “damning accusation from a key consumer demographic.”
Based on the results of this study, the political opinion of NFL players doesn’t have too much of an impact on millennials today.
“I support athletes and their decision to express their political views,” said John Walsh, coach of the Open Court Wildcats boys’ basketball team in Armonk, NY. “However, they must understand that their team or league may not like it and as a result, there may be consequences.”
Many people disagree with the decision of athletes to express their political views on the field.
“I think athletes should keep their opinions to themselves because they’re such influential people,” said former baseball player, Alex Gabrielly.
Some people think athletes are abusing their platforms and influencing younger generations by speaking up.
“I remember looking up to so many NFL players as a kid,” said Anthony Pelose, an avid sports fan. “I think if athletes are going to express their views, they should do it in a respectful way.”