FTB: Athlete conspiracy theories irresponsibly sway public opinion

Bella Baff, Associate Sports Editor

It’s no secret that many NBA athletes have eccentric personalities. NBA champion Metta World Peace, for example, admitted to drinking Hennessy during halftime. Just last week, Russell Westbrook who was criticized for his ongoing feud with a reporter.

While one of the best things about the league is how much fans get to know players off the court, at a certain point, members of the NBA must recognize just how great an influence their words can have. Case in point: the trend of athletes questioning basic scientific truths most namely the shape of the earth and the moon landing.

The tendency of famous people to spread misinformation, whether knowingly or not, that catches on with the general public is nothing new. But the epidemic of pseudoscientific theories within the sports world found a new resurgence in February 2017 when Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving expressed his opinion that the earth is flat on a podcast. Since then, Irving has made a concerning amount of profound, inaccurate remarks about a number of scientific matters.

Irving’s comments spread rapidly throughout the league, with several reporters asking other players about their thoughts on the matter. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green jumped in on the controversy with his thoughts a few weeks later, after being presented with a photo of the earth from space.

“It’s hard to call someone’s opinion crazy,” Green said. “Who’s to say that picture is telling the truth?”

In September 2017, Irving’s teammate Jaylen Brown joked about the situation.

“The world may appear to be flat. Kyrie may very well have a point,” Brown said in an interview with NBC Sports.

More recently, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry made headlines last December when he asked, unprovoked, on a different podcast if anyone had ever made it to the moon. His co-stars, NBA players Kent Bazemore, Vince Carter and Andre Iguodala, unanimously agreed no one had.

Curry immediately faced widespread backlash, with astronaut Scott Kelly even reaching out to him on Twitter to change his mind. The two had a conversation about science on Instagram Live, and Curry apologized.

Irving apologized for his flat earth comments, too, in a summit back in October 2018.

But that isn’t enough. In the summit, Irving said he learned that certain thoughts are best kept in intimate conversations, and at the time he was simply very interested in conspiracies. This is the apology of someone who is sorry they got caught, not that they spread false information.

Furthermore, no apology can reverse the impact that Curry and Irving’s words had on their fans. Curry is potentially the most beloved player in basketball, having had the best-selling jersey three years in a row. The point guard is especially loved by children, perhaps due to how his play style has made the game more accessible to them.

Irving is also of the most recognizable NBA players by name though that may be due to his reputation  as that basketball player who thinks the earth is flat.

At the end of the day, players have an incredible and slightly terrifying amount of influence, especially on young, malleable minds. This is why they, and we, must stop joking about whether or not the earth is flat, fake, or any number of other easily disproved theories.

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