Why Black Athletes Shouldn’t Feel Obligated To Be Political Activists

Michael Jordan and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott are in different situations, but both have received similar backlash for their recent actions.

In the aftermath of President Trump’s tweet attacking LeBron James’ intelligence as well as CNN anchor Don Lemon’s, Jordan responded with support for James.

James and Colin Kaepernick are two black athletes to speak about social issues. James, Kaepernick and other black athletes have a constitutional right to discuss social and political issues.

But black athletes – and in Jordan’s case black front office officials – also have the right to not be as outspoken as their counterparts. Black athletes and black front office management do have a platform and have influence. What black athletes choose to do with that platform, though, is their decision. In whatever decision an athlete makes, consequences will come of it.

Though Jordan expressed his support for James, his stance has been viewed as not good enough by some. On Monday, Shannon Sharpe, an analyst on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” said he was disappointed with Jordan’s statement.

“What he (President Trump) said about LeBron James, given his track record over the past year what he’s said about other prominent African Americans,” Sharpe said. “And you chose, you support LJ? You support him as what? As a father? As a family man? What exactly are you supporting? Michael wants to swim, but he doesn’t want to get wet.”

With James recently opening his “I Promise” school in Akron, Ohio, he has only added to his work off the floor. Students are receiving free tuition, free uniforms, free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Also, students in the program who graduate will receive free tuition at the University of Akron.

What James has done for his community is great – he is one of the most philanthropic athletes in sports.

But Jordan shouldn’t be attacked for not being as outspoken as James. Jordan has broken barriers for black athletes; he just hasn’t operated in the political arena.

With his shoes, he has influenced basketball culture. He’s one of the first athletes to establish himself as a brand. In being the primary owner for the Charlotte Hornets, he has constructed a diverse staff.

After Prescott said during a July 27 training camp that he didn’t believe in protesting the national anthem on the field, he received ridicule. He was viewed as a black athlete who was “selling out,” as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said the team will stand for the anthem. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones also implied during an interview with a Dallas radio station that a player would be released if he doesn’t stand for the anthem.

A mural depicting Prescott as the main character in “Get Out” surfaced in Dallas last Friday; the mural has been defaced. Before the mural was defaced, tears streamed down Prescott’s face, which suggested that he is in the “sunken place.” The “sunken place” is a phrase used in “Get Out” to display a black person who isn’t aware of the racial challenges that come with being black.

Prescott’s unwillingness to protest while on the field is his choice. He has also explained why he is making that choice.

“The game of football has always brought me such a peace, and I think it does the same for a lot of people, a lot of people playing the game, a lot of people watching the game, a lot of people that have any impact of the game,” Prescott said in July. “So when you bring such a controversy to the stadium, to the field, to the game, it takes away.”

Though the players who have kneeled are protesting police brutality and not the anthem, one can’t ignore the controversy the protests have brought to the NFL.

During May, President Trump said players who kneel shouldn’t be playing and maybe shouldn’t be in the country.

That statement from President Trump is despicable. Players have a constitutional right to peacefully protest wherever they want. The NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand for the anthem if they’re on the field. However, players can choose to stay in the locker room during the anthem.

Prescott is outspoken on why he doesn’t want to protest while on the field. But scrutiny is coming his way because people don’t like he has a different view compared to players who kneel.

Still, Prescott disagreeing with players who kneel doesn’t mean he’s in the “sunken place.” He said he believes in fighting social issues in other ways. Now, what those other ways are remains to be seen from Prescott.

Jordan and Prescott catching ridicule for their respective situations perhaps shows society is increasingly expecting more athletes to speak out.

But not every athlete in the world should be viewed as a fully-fledged political leader, or someone who regularly discusses societal issues. Athletes didn’t sign up to be politicians.

Current and former athletes who have chosen to lead, ones such as the late Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, James and Kaepernick, should be praised. The work they have done has helped the world progress, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

But backlash shouldn’t be extended to athletes who perhaps aren’t as willing to venture into the political or social realm.


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