Why do people get upset with athletes when they stand up for social justice?

Why do people get upset with athletes when they stand up for social  justice?
September 09
14:10 2020

Black professional athletes have been speaking out against social injustice since they have had the platform to do so.  Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and others spoke out during the Civil Rights Movement and before them, Jackie Robinson spoke out once he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. My question now is, why are so many people upset about how the modern-day athletes are using their voice like the pioneers that came before them?

Just so everyone is clear, I think it’s a very good thing that our athletes of today are speaking out about police brutality and social justice issues that plague this country. They have the biggest platform and influence millions of kids and young adults with their words. Many of these athletes also contribute their time and money to their communities as well.

I don’t quite understand the anger and resentment that has been hurled toward athletes from some of these people. “Shut up and dribble,” “Just stick to sports” and “What do they know, they don’t even have a college degree.”  These are some of the dumbest comments I have ever heard from the pundits. When did a college degree become the only determining factor for intelligence?

It bothers me that so many people have this elitist mentality to think that just because they have a college degree, they are more intelligent than the next person. Couple that with the fact that many people believe that “shut up and dribble” ideology; it seems to be a can’t-win situation for these athletes.

What a lot of people fail to realize is many of these athletes are very articulate and intelligent individuals who in many cases have done their research on the topic of social injustice. In other cases, many have either lived through or know someone who has suffered from it or police brutality, or both. You don’t have to be a political activist to speak out on things that are wrong in your community, and that is what many of these individuals fail to realize.

When I hear or read some of these vile comments, it’s like people think a professional athlete should not be allowed to speak on social justice issues because of their annual salary. “Spoiled,” “brats,” or “entitled” are some of the most common words I see thrown around when athletes speak out. What these people fail to realize is many of these young men and women come from backgrounds where they more than likely witnessed these injustices growing up.

I thought when I read all of the hatred spewed toward Colin Kaepernick, that was over the top. But the things I am seeing and reading now about some of these athletes is appalling. It seems some of the people making these hateful comments have been personally affected in some way by the words that come out of the athlete’s mouths when in fact, they have not.

Some of these comments have been fueled by our president, unfortunately. Last week he attacked the NBA on Twitter by saying, “People are tired of watching the highly political @NBA. Basketball ratings are WAY down, and they won’t be coming back. I hope football and baseball are watching and learning because the same thing will be happening to them. Stand tall for our Country and our Flag!!!”

Obviously, that was a shot at the players in the NBA and WNBA kneeling for the national anthem. Dating back to Kaepernick, we all know how the president feels about kneeling for the anthem. Even though the lower ratings for NBA games can relate to other issues like earlier start time for games and declining subscriptions to cable networks due to illegal streaming, but if the president prefers to strictly blame it on the leagues’ political stance then so be it.

Legends like Brown, Abdul-Jabbar, Russell and Ali set the stage for the players of today to have the voices they currently have. With the reach these players have on social media and television, the impact they have on the impressionable youth is great. I think that is one of the major reasons why this new movement has and will continue to be led by the younger generation. Seeing their sports idols standing up for what is right on the biggest stage has to inspire many youths to follow suit.

What makes this movement even better is the participation of other races. Players from the NHL and MLB have also joined in the movement by making public statements, kneeling for the anthem, or boycotting games. I know that has to drive some of these so-called “patriots” insane. The inclusion of other races has a more profound impact, but may not be seen or noticed until the next generation of kids and young adults grow into adulthood.

I don’t want to paint everyone who objects to professional athletes speaking out with the same brush, but one question continues to come to mind: How come it’s only athletes that are attacked with such veracity? Actors, musicians, politicians and even reality stars routinely have spoken out about the issue, but have not received the same backlash; why is that? I don’t want to directly blame race as the major contributor, but I call a spade, a spade; it just is what it is.

What I love seeing the most are the comments that resemble “The NBA just lost me,” or “I’ll never watch another game.” To all those who have uttered those words, I have two more for you: WHO CARES? These leagues have survived for a century, in some cases, and if a few thousand or even a hundred thousand fans decide not to attend games or watch, the leagues will survive.  

My hope is these players continue to press the issue more and more, because the fight for equality and justice is far from over. The people who attempt to bash these players will continue to yell their negative words, but as always, their ignorance will be ignored, as it should be.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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