“Don’t Tell Me To Stick To Sports”: Sports, Politics and Social Issues Can’t Be Separated

In recent years the collision of sports, politics and social issues have seemingly reached new heights. NBA players took a stand for the murders of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem to raise awareness of police brutality. Donal Trump called NFL players sons of bitches. Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, called out President Trump. Lebron James got told to shut up and dribble by Fox News anchors. The latest examples have been athletes calling for justice for the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. 

However this narrative that sports have always been devoid of politics is a lie. In fact sports, politics and social issues have been intertwined since the civil rights movement. Bill Russell and Muhammed Ali were fighting social and political issues back in the 1960’s. When we talk about their greatness today, everyone is in unison calling Ali the G.O.A.T and Russell a national treasure.

But rewind the tape to the 60’s and read the newspapers, these two legends were vilified for stepping outside of their lanes. You would think that people would have learned their lesson by now when it comes to trying to silence social movements and athletes.  They have had 60 years to learn from the slandering of Bill Russell and Muhammed Ali. Sadly they have not. 

“Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”- George Santayana

History is repeating itself right in front of us, and yet millions of you are once again on the wrong side. 

Every instance where a modern athlete has spoken out and made a stand, here comes Karen and Chad in the comment section with “Shut up and dribble,” and “Stick to sports.” Even worse than those uneducated folks is when Fox News anchors and 45 himself tweet out and hold segments trying to diminish their words.

Those comments only do one thing: they diminish these HUMAN BEINGS to simply athletes who have no right to do anything but play their sport. It is an attempt to strip them of their right to speak out about injustices.

I have also been told to “stick to sports” and I am just a college journalist. But to borrow some wisdom from an experienced journalist, Jemele Hill, am I supposed to act like this isn’t happening?

I am a journalist. Am I supposed to ignore the fact that Colin Kaepernick took a knee? Should I ignore when Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich respond to President Trump’s tweets? While writing about a game, should I ignore NBA teams wearing “I can’t breathe” shirts? Should I act as if I don’t see their post game messages and tweets calling for justice?

A journalist job is to tell the whole story and let the public make their own opinions. Yelling at sports media to just write about what happens between the lines when athletes are taking social stands is not feasible. For one it would be a malpractice, and two it would be completely tone deaf. 

Telling sports journalists to blur out the real stuff, the conversation that matters, because it makes you uncomfortable or isn’t something that affects you, won’t ever fly with me or any other journalist. And each time you pop up into the comment section saying stick to sports and shut up and dribble, you show more and more of your racists tendencies. 

But you see unlike the way everyone today just views Ali and Russell as great athletes, while forgetting that they were vilified by white America for their social stands, I will not let you get away with doing do with the modern athletes.

In 20 years when you try to muddy the waters and act like you weren’t vilifying Kaepernick and Lebron, I will hold your insensitive, racial biases against you, and your social media posts will be the evidence.

So next time, and there will be a next time, a tragedy occurs, let athletes speak out about it. Keep your insensitive comments to yourself because you’re only making yourself look like more of a fool.

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