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Activism in Sports
A growing trend has been spreading like a plague across the world of sports in recent months. It is not a new fad for sports personalities to speak their minds over issues of the day but with a 24/7 news cycle and with ESPN working tirelessly around the clock in search for athletes tweets, it has become evident that this is for better or worse something that is here to stay. ESPN has used this power as a means to either praise those whom they agree with or to destroy those who do not share their viewpoints. At times, it is distasteful how the media intrudes on the personal lives of our beloved sports heroes but at the same time it has also humanized the athletes who appear to be larger than life. For those of us who use sports as a way to break away from the more serious and controversial aspects of the world this new wave of information and activism can not only become annoying but can also change how we perceive certain players or brands. I for one miss the days when ESPN informed me of scores and not of social injustices.
Whether it is St. Louis Rams players holding their hands up in response to the Michael Brown grand jury decision not to prosecute police officer Darren Wilson or Lebron James wearing a t-shirt with "I Can't Breathe" in big white letters on the front in protest of another ruling by a grand jury not to prosecute New York City police officers in the wrongful death of Eric Garner it seems wherever we turn someone is reminding us that athletes are people to. They have emotions, interests and ideas. They wish to speak their minds over something near and dear to their hearts just as most of us do on Twitter and Facebook every day. The only difference is their opinions make the front cover of newspapers and magazines. News outlets quibble over whether or not their opinions are helping or hurting the conversation over certain topics. At times, they help their own brand and bring important issues to the forefront of the American sub-conscience. Other times, they get their jerseys burned and ticket sales plummet. No matter where they stand on the issues, they are always running the risk of alienating a certain segment of their fan-base. Which makes their decision to stand up for what they believe all the more courageous.
Yet, one can't help but wonder if it is beneficial for someone like Lebron James or Charles Barkley to dictate the conversation over important real world issues. After all, these athletes lack certain credentials and information needed to firmly understand the full story. They are paid to entertain not to govern, to play not to politic. This is not to say that athletes are stupid or that they do not have the right to speak out on issues, because in all right they do, as does the rest of us. However, when it comes to matters pertaining to political or legal matters it is quite clear to anyone that these athletes are out of their league when compared to those who have studied and made a living understanding these particular matters. Lebron James is no Barack Obama and his opinions, while important, should not be treated in the same category as those who understand the seriousness of the case.
Athletes are trained to deal in emotions, not always in fact. Their popularity sometimes clouds their judgement and gives them a sense of entitlement, a sense of self-importance. This sometimes causes them to not understand the ramifications of their statements and actions. After all, they strive to be popular and at times, controversial. Controversy only increases their egos and bank accounts. Gets them on the front cover of Sports Illustrated and commercial endorsements. Their not concerned about being re-elected or held accountable to what they say or do. The truth is whatever they deem it to be and it matters little if it is factually accurate.
Sadly, their opinions often for better or worse infiltrate the minds of the younger generation who idolizes them. Their influence knows no bounds and their words are taken as truth not opinion. This can lead to a wave of misinformation that can often poison how we perceive a certain issue and in some it often blurs the line between fact and fiction forever.