Sports and Politics

At least in the lives of high schoolers, there has not been a more politically tumultuous time than what we are seeing right now. The Trump presidency has created a constant air of drama as citizens are left wondering what he will do day in and day out. Moreover, we live in constant fear with issues over immigration, nuclear war, and other controversies. While the Trump presidency has changed many policies, perhaps the most inadvertent change has come in the sporting world. Athletes, used to keeping their heads down and doing their job, are now speaking out against the president, demanding for change.

Do athletes have the right to speak their mind on political issues, or should they keep their mouths shut and play their sport? This question has been a great debate since the NFL protests coinciding with the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps there is no right answer, but I will make the argument that these athletes have every right to exercise their first amendment and speak out against the government.

Colin Kaepernick is, without a doubt, the first name that comes to mind when people think of sports protest. He started kneeling during the National Anthem and has devoted his time to black equality ever since. However, some people don’t realize that Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is one of the greatest critics of the President. James, unlike Kaepernick, is the best in his sport and has no fear of losing a job over his words, creating the perfect platform for him to speak out. James is perhaps the most recognizable athlete in the world; he is a global superstar. Kids and adults alike admire him on and off the court. So, using this platform, James, along with the Warriors Kevin Durant, criticized the President, saying that he “doesn’t understand the people.” Of course, this drew much backlash from the conservative news outlets, as Fox News host Laura Ingraham called him out and told him to “shut up and dribble.” She also falsely claimed that he never graduated high school and to keep the political commentary to himself. Her comments received a retort from James, who of course said he would not simply “shut up and dribble.”

James has every right to voice his displeasures with the country. Not only it is his right, but, as I’ve said, he has the perfect platform. People listen to James. He has millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter, both adult and child. Children, who are our future voters and perhaps presidents, look up to James; they want to be him. Therefore, with James speaking out, America’s youth grasp what is happening in our country. They start to form their own opinions on the subject matter, whether they agree or disagree with him. Children aren’t going to listen to Fox News hosts, they are going to listen to James aired on ESPN and TNT almost every night. James is fueling a generation of young athletes who may grow to become politicians or political athletes themselves. There is no doubt that this country needs some change, and the King is at the head of this movement.  

Some may disagree with James and some may disagree with athlete protest as a whole. They argue that they are uneducated and not versed in politics. Yes, many of these athletes may not have completed (or in James’s case even gone to college), but, we need to consider that many of these athletes are black, and grew up and continue to live with discrimination of all forms. They don’t need a proper political education because they are experiencing the action with courtside seats; they are right in the thick of it. Moreover, if these superstar athletes aren’t going to speak out, who are the kids going to listen to? Because, I can guarantee you, elementary, middle, and high school teenagers are not going to listen to their teachers, they are not going to seek out information from senators and congressmen, and they sure as hell are not going to listen to news host shoving false information down their throats; they are going to listen to the people they aspire to be. So, to LeBron James and athletes everywhere, may you never shut up and dribble.