That last tweet is a top 5 hot take of the year. First things first, Skinny Vanilla also does not have a college degree at the moment, and won’t for 3 more years or so:
Just a wild move from an 18 year old to try and say a self-made billionaire isn’t smart. Like yeah Skinny Vanilla, you know more about the world than Lebron James, let’s go with that.
I honestly just searched “stick to sports” on Twitter, and that handful of tweets came up. As you can imagine, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Actually, it’s not just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one molecule of water stacked at the highest point on the iceberg. We’re not even in peak Kaepernick-hating season yet, and there’s quite literally a million more tweets like it. Just folks with stuff like “if my tweets offend you, UNFOLLOW, it’s that simple” in their bios sitting at home watching Shark Tank and firing off tweets to Shannon Sharpe or Kaepernick or Chris Long or whomstever made a bold statement like “we shouldn’t kill innocent people” or “we shouldn’t celebrate Confederate losers” that they need to stick to their job.
What a stupid, North Korean, anti-American way of thinking that is. That the only people who should be allowed to talk about politics are the people within politics. Athletes can vote. Athletes pay taxes (more than you and I). Athletes abide by the same laws we do. So why don’t we want them to use their stage to speak on pressing issues? If they’re not allowed to talk about or get involved in politics, then who is?
Because NFL owners, for example, have never had an issue getting involved in politics. In fact, according to citizensforethics.org, NFL owners were nearing the $5 million mark in terms of contributions to political campaigns across the spectrum during the 2016 election cycle. And honestly, most of them were towards shitty campaigns. Like the owner of the Texans gave a $500,000 donation to a Mike Huckabee SuperPac. The Saints owner, $125,000 towards Bobby Jindal’s campaign (if you can call it that). The Jets owner, a half mil to Jeb(!). Jerry Jones? A butt-ton of money to his butt-buddy Chris Christie. You get the picture. They’re friends, and honestly, some of them do a terrible job of hiding it.
In politics, there’s no scratching of someone’s back just to scratch their back. There’s reciprocation. So in whatever way that may be, these sports owners will be benefiting or would have benefited from their deep pocket donations to both the major campaigns they gave money to, or the local campaigns. Whether it’s in money for a new stadium in Milwaukee because the owner of the Bucks is a big contributor to your presidential campaign or a defeated income tax-initiative that would have hurt your political contributor’s business, sports owners and politicians have become more and more intertwined as those owners started becoming richer and richer and gaining more influence. We’ve had athletes become Representatives, Senators, Mayors, Cabinet Members, and Presidents. We’ve had Presidents who owned teams, and owners who became ambassadors.
So that thought that politics and sports have never mixed before recent years is insane, like did y’all forget that OUR TAX DOLLARS (not mine I was 7) WENT TOWARDS POLITICIANS TALKING TO MARK MCGUIRE AND JOSE CANSECO AND SAMMY SOSA AND RAFAEL PALMEIRO ABOUT STEROIDS?????? WELL HERE I PUT ALL 3 HOURS IN BELOW TO REMIND YOU:
What was that even about? Why did we need to be using government resources to know that it was a little odd Mark MgWire was banging 70 homers at age 35? Don’t explain me a single reason, because there isn’t one.
There’s no way to separate sports and politics from each other, because they’re part of a combination that forms our culture. You can’t separate pieces of culture and force them to not interact. That’s not how culture works. It’s like baking brownies. Once you’ve co-mingled ingredients, as we’ve done with sports and politics, you can’t decide after the fact to separate them. Even if it’s not how you wanted it to taste, or it doesn’t look the way you envisioned it (or whatever terrible metaphor you want to make for how the owners and politicians got into cahoots and are now scared because the athletes now have the stronger voices), you don’t get to separate them after the fact.
Back in the 40s or 50s or 60s, when something tragic happened, people looked to politicans or activists to speak on the issue. People looked to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and MLK during the Civil Rights movement. They wanted to hear from Malcolm X on racism, and from FDR on World War Two. But times have changed, and they’ve been changing for a long time. There’s no one incident that began the change. Maybe it was Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the ’68 Olympics. Maybe it was Muhammad Ali refusing to go to the Vietnam War. Maybe it was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s silent protest of the National Anthem. Wherever it started, here’s where we stand: nowadays, we look to sports as much if not more than we look to politicians in times of turmoil. Anybody who says otherwise is lying to themselves. Take the Boston bombings. People looked to the Red Sox as much as they looked to the Mayor of Boston. They looked to David Ortiz making a statement, and bringing them some hope.
That was a unanimous cause. The issues being brought up by athletes now aren’t. That doesn’t change the facts. Our generation grew up idolizing athletes more than any generation before us. We bought their shoes and used them in video games and watched them play more than any generation before us. They’re bigger parts of our daily lives than any generation before us. They’re bigger role models to us than any generation before us, and their voices carry more weight. I’ll take Lebron at his word before I take 99% of politicians at their word (in a weird twist, Bernie’s the 1% in this scenario). We want to hear athletes speak out on issues, because they’re the people that we’ve always looked up to.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that 1/3rd of my who I am today comes from watching Derek Jeter and Rajon Rondo compete. Like the characteristics they showcased so uniquely in their respective sports became the characteristics I wanted to possess. I wanted to be selfless, and hard working, and someone who could stand up for themselves, and a leader. Which are the kinds of things we want kids to learn from watching professional athletes. We don’t really give a shit if they appreciate how well a guy plays pick and roll defense. What we care about more is that they see how the guys communicate and work as a team to accomplish a task. A 9 year old isn’t going to suddenly pick up Dirk’s fadeaway. But he’ll pick up Dirk’s respect for his opponent, and the genuine passion and joy he has for his job. Think about who your favorite athletes of all-time are, and then think about the characteristics you share with them. I promise the similarities are vast.
Therefore, for the sake of our next generation, athletes have to speak out on injustices. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, or because it will bring an immediate and direct change. Sitting during the National Anthem isn’t going to end racism. Tweeting about our President isn’t going to un-elect him or undo policies he’s put in place. That’s not the impact of athletes speaking out on social issues. Kids need to see that the job you have doesn’t determine whether or not you can speak on issues that affect you and people you care about. You can be a plumber, an architect, a stripper, a doctor, a star NBA player, or a bum, and you still get to voice your opinion on politics. Just like Rajon Rondo taught me to be selfless, Lebron will teach some kid in Ohio that their voice matters, and that they don’t have to accept hatred or racism or bigotry as a norm. Just like Derek Jeter taught me to be tough, Colin Kaepernick is teaching some kid in Chicago or Ferguson or Baltimore or Cleveland that they have the right to speak out on oppression they feel.
These are qualities we should want role models in our society to be showcasing to our youth. Whether or not you agree with the content of the message is a different discussion completely. Argue the other side of the coin if you want, that the issues they’re protesting aren’t actually issues, or aren’t being portrayed correctly by them. But the days of condemning the people our youth look up to solely for having an opinion are