The Tulane Hullabaloo

FTB: Stick to democracy: a discussion of politics in athletics

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 From the Basement is a weekly column in which the Hullabaloo Sports team discusses its opinion on contemporary sports issues.

When and why should sports players be political? If one has a discussion about sports today, it often comes around to politics. Sports is no longer safe dinner conversation.

One of the biggest headlines in football today is the movement Colin Kaepernick catalyzed: taking a knee to protest the disproportionate violence against African-Americans by police officers. Kaepernick’s primary goal was to create awareness of persistent racial targeting. His protest has mostly been silent: simply kneeling, not standing during the national anthem.

The NFL is not the only league where athletes have raised political concerns. The NBA has become one of most political leagues today. One of the more notable franchises, the Golden State Warriors, often start practice with a discussion of news. How did these sports become so invested with politics and social issues?

The answer is simple: the individuals who play these sports often have roots in places that are still regularly subject to racism and other forms of injustice. These athletes take it upon themselves to attempt to solve these issues in using their popularity to their advantage.

“Stick to sports” is a favorite phrase of those opposing socially and/or politically active players. This tells athletes they will not be able to make a difference in anything else outside of their specific sport. In reality, however, athletes are among the most well-known and revered celebrities in American culture, and have the potential to influence the public both in and beyond the courts, fields and arenas in which they play.

The players have a powerful platform to speak on, but when they use it to speak about anything other than sports, they are accused of not “sticking to sports.” These are people whose freedom of speech is protected, and when we quiet their voices we are infringing on their rights as public figures, as American citizens and as human beings.

In some cases, however, politics can infringe on athletic events. In 2016, the NBA All-Star game was scheduled in Charlotte, North Carolina, but changed locations due to the infamous “bathroom bill,” banning transgender persons from using the bathroom of their identified gender as opposed to the gender they were assigned at birth. Stephen Curry, a North Carolina native, was the center of media attention and was asked many times to give his official statement on the bill. After his first response, he was criticized for his weak stance on North Carolina’s discriminatory laws.

More recently, after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship, there was speculation on whether or not the team would go on the traditional visit to the White House. Multiple sources speculated Stephen Curry would not attend, leading Donald Trump to tweet that his invitation was revoked. How can someone like Curry remain apolitical when the President of the United States is tweeting insulting comments at him?

Sports players today have reached an incredible level of popularity. With this fame comes the attention of many media outlets. It is wrong to put sanctions on what these people and players have to say. It is also unfair, however, to expect a composed political statement from them on command. Players should be able to choose to use their platforms to speak about issues that are important to them. If America is supposed to be a government of the people, why are these crucial voices being silenced?

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Kevin is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
FTB: Stick to democracy: a discussion of politics in athletics