The First Amendment is for all Americans...including athletes
Updated: Sep 10
Athletes have been outspoken about social issues during this year of multiple unfortunate events. The NBA resumed its season in a bubble in Orlando, Florida, and has allowed players to wear messages on jerseys while every team has been sporting black warm-up shirts with the words “Black Lives Matter” on the front in white letters. Even the WNBA has allowed players to do the same, and multiple players in that league wear shirts with the message “Arrest the cops who killed Breona Taylor”. A lot of people have opinions on these situations involving Taylor, George Floyd, and most recently Jacob Blake.
Much like the news anchor who once said Lebron James should “Shut up and dribble”, I find myself looking around the internet and seeing a lot of my fellow Americans who think these athletes should “stick to sports” and not speak on politics and social issues. My question is “Why do people feel like athletes should not give their opinions on the issues in this country?” They are seeing these things just like a teller at Regions Bank, or a garbage man from your local waste management company. They are citizens too.
Do people feel like they should not speak about politics or things happening in the country and the world because they play a game for a living? I understand, sort of, because with me being an avid sports fan I just want to tune into ESPN and see sports but these days it feels like you turn on sports networks and it’s almost as if you are watching CNN. But people have to realize that if we normal 9 to 5 people get to have our opinions on the things that we as a society are facing then people in the spotlight should be able to have theirs as well.
I understand that sometimes it can be overkill, but when situations like the one involving George Floyd happen you can’t expect athletes to really “Shut up and play” when everybody else gets their chance to say what they feel about it. The difference is that you are going to hear more about the opinion of Lebron James than you will of me because he is in the spotlight and me… I’m just not in the spotlight. His opinion makes for a news story, so we all get to hear about it. Also in today’s world where we have social media with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and so many opinions are out there you cannot expect to not hear about what the people who have millions of followers think.
I don’t like this idea that people that play sports should not speak their minds. They are citizens just like you and me and they are human with families that are affected by the things that go on in this country. When laws are made they are affected and they have to abide just like the Average Joe. They are taxpayers. They are voters. They are people. Why do they need to “shut up and just play ball?” I think that most people are just fine with people speaking their minds as long as it isn’t something that is against their views.
People have even gone as far as putting fake news out there just to try to make a point. There is a fake Larry Bird quote circulating right now which basically says that back in his day players just played basketball. Bird is a Boston Celtics and NBA legend, so someone felt the need to use a former NBA player to try to get their point across because the words of an All-Time NBA great speaking out against active players would speak volumes, but if you pay any attention to the NBA at all you know that Bird does not speak on his views publicly. He does not even speak publicly these days and hasn’t been in the public eye for a while.
NFL players have been outspoken as well, and a lot of the animosity between some people in society and athletes began with Colin Kaepernick. People that have that type of platform are going to use it sometime. I think that people wanting to silence athletes goes against what this country is supposed to stand for. We are supposed to be one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I think that message has become lost.
We all have a right to the First Amendment. That does not mean you have to agree with everybody because that is not possible anyway, but why do people think that people should be silent just because they do not like what their point of view? Players are pushing for change, and that will come down to the people who can change laws and things of that nature, but this is not North Korea. Like it or not everyone here has a voice and the right to use that voice if they choose to do so.