Redman's Ramblings

Redman’s Ramblings: Athletes Deserve the Right to Speak Their Political Opinions

Courtesy of Brook WardFormer San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has received heavy criticism for his silent protest of the national anthem. Despite leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012, he is currently a free agent and multiple NFL owners have said they wouldn’t sign him because of possible negative reactions from fans.

There has a been a lot going on in the sports world recently. Major League Baseball’s playoff races are starting to heat up as the season dives headlong into September, the NBA is closing an offseason highlighted by big name moves and trade demands and NFL training camps are in full swing with the regular season coming up fast.

But for all that is happening in the sports world, the real world has been even crazier with the looming — and terrifying — threat of nuclear war with North Korea, an investigation into the possibility of foreign collusion to influence our democratic process and — to put a cherry on top of the crazy sundae — neo-Nazis and white nationalists rallying in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., which ended in the death of a counterprotester.

Naturally, people have lots of opinions on these world events, which affect everyone in the United States in a variety of ways.

The list of those affected by these events, believe it or not, includes professional athletes. Even with their multi-million dollar contracts, professional athletes are scared of nuclear war. They are affected by the decisions and actions of the president and still feel the effects of racism.

Because professional athletes are affected by everything going on in the world, they are allowed to express their opinions. But some people on the internet don’t seem to think that. On Aug. 15, LeBron James tweeted a response to the rally in Charlottesville:

“Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again! Statues has nothing to do with us now!”

James’ tweet is no different than the response of many other Americans. But many other Americans aren’t the best basketball player in the world and don’t have 37 million Twitter followers.

One person — whose Twitter name is just a duck emoji — tweeted a response to James.

“Like if basketball stars should stay out of politics,” duck emoji wrote.

The idea that basketball players need to stay out of politics doesn’t make sense. People aren’t defined solely by their jobs, and their jobs certainly don’t disqualify them from having political opinions. No one is telling a plumber to “stick to plumbing” after they express an opinion.

Athletes have political views that range from far conservative to far liberal. On the right is former MLB player and current Breitbart radio personality Curt Schilling, whose Twitter feed is famous for right-wing memes and questionable views on the attractiveness of underage girls. On the left is unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, to the dismay of many  football loving Americans, decided he wasn’t going to stand for the national anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans in the United States.

Why can’t fans respect the fact that athletes are people with opinions just like anyone else? If anything, athletes should be more outspoken — they are given a platform that many people never get a chance to have, and it would be irresponsible not to use that platform for good.

In fact, most athletes use their platforms in an incredible way, by backing up what they say with generous acts of charity. For example, LeBron James has teamed up with the University of Akron to give qualifying kids who graduate high school from Akron city schools a free college education. Colin Kaepernick has backed up his silent protest of the national anthem by donating $1 million to charities that benefit the African-American community and handing free suits out to people as they leave a Queens, New York parole office.

When athletes like Kaepernick and James speak, millions listen. James is one of the most recognizable people on the planet; what he says matters. Of course he should speak out against things he disagrees with because he has the power to possibly change the minds and hearts of others.

I respect the right for all athletes to have political opinions, because those athletes are people first and have the ability to influence the world in a way that is not only visible but good for society.

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