It is an unwritten rule in sports. What goes on in house, stays in the house. We have seen what happens when athletes go against the grain and give the media insight on what goes on behind the scenes.
One person that stands out in recent memory is Antonio Brown when he was on Facebook live and he gave everybody a view of what it was like inside the Steelers locker room. In the video listeners could hear Mike Tomlin in the back and what he was saying about what the upcoming game with the Patriots.
Brown came out and apologized and Tomlin was not happy because he felt like his tactics were compromised by his own player. There are different instances of a player going against the grain but what we are focusing on is the fact that athletes are not able to exercise their right of freedom of speech.
Colin Kaepernick sent shockwaves around the nation when he said he would not kneel during the pledge of allegiance anymore. Many thought that the reason that he did this was because of the fact that he was a free agent and he didn’t want a team to pass on him because of the potential of him being a distraction.
This brings the question, should an athlete be quiet if their income is going to be affected? Playing sports is how an athlete pays the bills and lives. If their income with playing sports is affected for any reason then that is a big problem for them.
What really changes the social image and narrative in the NBA, NFL, MLB and other leagues is if a big time athlete speaks out.
For it to really resonate, it would have to be an athlete that is the engine of the sport. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade were those athletes that the fight needed. Four black well respected superstars all standing together on a big stage (The ESPYS) and they were all speaking their mind of police brutality and the violence going in the world. When they did that it received good feedback and it was a crucial step in the advancement of athletes being able to speak their mind on social issues publicly.
Donald Sterling’s recording was another milestone because it showed blatant racism in the realm of sports and it showed owner to player oppression. Sterling was a white owner in a black dominated sport and his mistress recorded him saying that she should not bring black people, mainly Magic Johnson, to his team’s games.
The backlash when people heard this was striking. LeBron responded with saying that he refused to play unless Sterling was relieved of his ownership privileges.
The Clippers staged a silent protest in their playoff game against the Warriors in which they went to center court and took off their warm up shirts and had red shirts inside out during warm ups that didn’t show the Clippers logo. They also wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks.
The team also had a 45 minute team meeting about what angered them with that recording.
There were other times athletes like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James wore warm up shirts saying I Can’t Breathe representing their feelings about police brutality.
I Can’t Breathe was what Eric Garner, a Staten Island resident and father of four, said while he was being choked by NYPD police and was just one of the examples of police brutality that was happening in America.
DeAngelo Williams of the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t allowed to wear pink year round to honor his mother who died of breast cancer. Instead, Williams dyed the tips of his dreadlocks pink and wear them every game to honor his mother.
The NFL has been called the “No Fun League” with their strict policies and their continued efforts to regulate the NFL. When an athlete decides to express themselves the league that they are associated with usually finds a way to shut them up. The NFL has strict policies against touchdown celebrations. The NBA put down a rule that you can’t touch the ball after scoring a point.Both leagues say that you cannot talk negative about how the officials referee the game.
Most athletes will just shut up and not let their income be affected but the ones that do say something, the punishment is so severe that it will scare other athletes away from speaking out. Familiarize yourself with the story of Craig Hodges here.
Losing precious endorsements and losing a fan base is now more important than doing what is right in your heart. There are some major athletes that are speaking up when necessary like, LeBron James. Though he has decided to dabble among the social waters he has been able to maintain his endorsements and even extend his contract with Nike, which is said to be in the billions.
With the way LeBron is being treated it will most likely be easier for other athletes to speak up and make it easier for their voices to be heard.
In my opinion, athletes have the platform necessary to be able to make a difference and they should use it.
They influence the kids and most kids when they are young want to be athletes. If they see an athlete that is able to express himself and be a good role model that would help make the world a better place.
Sometimes athletes can do head scratching things but they are who the youth are more likely to respond to so it is best to let them use their platform to spark conversation and change.
What are your thoughts? Should athletes use their platform more to speak out on social issues?