Should Athletes make political statements during a sporting event?
Are athletes and politics a bad mix? World class athletes are certainly role models for many. By stepping out in support or opposition to social, religious and political issues, athletes can draw attention and bring forth a political movement. Indeed, the athletes can exercise their rights to freedom of speech. But what if their controversial political statements divide the nation?
They are not military. They haven't taken an oath to protect, preserve and defend anything. As far as I'm concerned, they can say anything they want.
Athletes and celebrities have a unique opportunity when it comes to politics. Since they have such wide exposure, they have the power to bring attention to an issue that most people might never have heard about. They aren't obligated to do so, but they have the right to speak their mind if they so choose. However, they do face potential backlash. Not just from fans who may disagree, but from the corporate world. They have the right to say whatever they want and not get arrested, but that doesn't mean they can't get fired or lose sponsors. It's entirely up to them if they want to take that risk.
Freedom of speech applies to everyone including athletes and celebrities. No one person's statements or beliefs divides a nation. Most people have already "picked a side" on most issues.
When a celebrity speaks out it shines a light on the issues itself for many who may have been unaware of it.
A lot of people were unaware of the troubles in Darfur before George Clooney started talking about it.
Having said that there are many people who want athletes, actors, singers, and other performers to shut up and simply be highly paid "court jesters" who entertain us. Maybe these people see such people with fame as having an "unfair" advantage to sway public opinion.
Personally speaking I have never bought any product because a celebrity advertised it and I will not form my opinions based upon theirs either. They're entitled to talk about whatever is on their minds.
Technically, they can say whatever they want. But if an athlete has a grain of sense he'll keep his views on controversial issues to himself.
Team managers and sponsors don't necessarily want to be seen as "being affiliated" with the views a sponsored athlete holds. That's why (although no first amendment rights have been violated), we've seen athletes be "let go" from their teams for being outspoken for AND against homosexuality and LGBT issues, just as an example.
Going public with views on contentious issues puts an athlete on the hot seat. Having the views isn't wrong--but broadcasting them to the whole word isn't very smart. There will almost always be undesirable repercussions.
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