Should Athletes Stay Out of Politics?


Ava Padelford, Co-Editor

For years, people have enjoyed watching their favorite sports teams play from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA and more. It’s exciting for people to keep up with their favorite athletes, but do people want to keep up with their political beliefs too? 


Politics are booming as always and the US seems to be especially split on their political beliefs and moral values more than ever. Most people can use sports as an escape from the crazy political climate that ruins relationships and people. Both democrats and republicans can agree there are a handful of people who go too far in their political arguments. 


With that being said, athletes from the NBA and NFL have voiced their opinion. 


Many people are upset that politics are getting into sports, or really that some athletes are becoming more vocal about their views. The first amendment of our constitution gives freedom of speech. Someone can be upset about a player voicing their opinion and using their athletic platform to try and “advocate” to a larger audience. This, however, is a part of the freedom of speech they have. 


Playing sports is their job just like many students and their parents have jobs. It most likely isn’t appropriate or even allowed to share political views at work, but most of these athletes aren’t doing so during a game. They are doing it on their own time, on social media or during interviews. They just happen to have a larger audience than most of us. 


Athletes have a right and perhaps there’s a need for them to use their platforms to help create change or shed light on social issues; however, they need to stop using their platform to mislead their fan base or throw grease on a fire that is already spreading. Athletes have a responsibility to be more conscious about how they portray themselves and the impact of their comments and actions.


Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James definitely voices his opinion often. He made a statement back in April of 2021 saying, “I’m so damn tired of police killing black people.” James is bold in his statements. He reaches a variety of people and doesn’t always come across as respectful or mature to everyone. 


A black LAPD officer had some thoughts of his own about James’ statement. He wanted to sit down and talk with him about the men and women in blue and how not all cops are bad guys. James generalized who he thought the police were as a whole instead of looking into the good hearted officers who put their lives on the line daily. His comment was very disrespectful to officers who give their all to serve the community. 


Lebron ended up deleting his tweet due to the backlash and hate he was receiving. 


Many people have become infuriated with James while others praise him. This brings up the question: Should athletes share their views and opinions in a public forum when fans are the ones that ultimately pay their salaries? Is it a good idea to alienate fans? 


Another well known incident of disrespect was when Colin Kaepernick, QB for the 49ers kneeled to the flag during the National Anthem in 2016. He claimed that he wouldn’t stand for a country that “oppresses black people”. The National Anthem symbols the freedom within America and all of the men and women who fought and died for our country. Kaepernick used his so-called “platform” to speak against what he thought was a great deal of violence. A great deal of violence was the result of the Civil War, World War I and II, and every battle fought to give the people of America the freedom we have. What this man fails to realize is that the freedom he has to speak like he did is all due to what soldiers have sacrificed for our country. The flag represents our country and how we are the United States. We have freedom not every other country has. If someone doesn’t like living in the US that much then they can leave.


The bigger issue, however, is that Kapernick put unnecessary attention on himself and his team, further dividing not only his locker room but the NFL as a whole and perhaps even the country. Some fans burned his jersey or even stopped watching the 49ers. A large number of people felt this was extremely disrespectful and didn’t necessarily represent the team or the NFL. He certainly could have joined a movement or rally if he felt this way. Instead, he chose to do it in front of millions of people and it seemed to be more about him. In the end, what changed? He isn’t in the NFL anymore and lost the respect of so many people. 


There should be caution when it comes to politics and big organizations. A company can lose a large amount of support and money if they begin to advocate for a controversial issue. A team could lose support if one of their players is speaking their mind with politics. At the same time, however, America is all about free speech. 


So, how far is too far? The things said by players can cause them to lose their fans and support. There are a number of people who make themselves look bad by posting disrespectful comments on social media thinking they are “making a difference” in America. People seeing their posts either support what they are saying, or most commonly, see them as immature or rude. 


Freedom of speech is granted to everyone, but not everyone always uses it to their benefit.