Say what you want about athletes being paid too much or being idolized for the wrong reasons. They are role models, like it or not.
Athletes are some of the best-known celebrities around the world, and they are idolized by everyone from little kids to teenagers to grown adults. Because of having such a vast audience, it’s no surprise athletes have gotten more and more into the political scene over the past couple years.
There’s a lot of people out there who will say, “Stick to sports.” I hear it myself when I branch out into more political topics; people saying sports reporters should write only “what they know.” Athletes are the same; if they aren’t talking about football or basketball, some people will say they shouldn’t be talking at all.
That’s just ridiculous. First of all, like me, athletes are humans and playing their sport is ultimately doing their job. At the end of the day, they go home to their families and watch the same TV shows we do and eat at the same restaurants. They also are part of the same somewhat tumultuous political climate. Of course they are going to have opinions.
I, myself, don’t like to talk politics for two reasons. No. 1, I’m a journalist at heart and we are supposed to remain unbiased by our code of ethics. No. 2, I personally am not that interested in politics or well-versed in a lot of hot-button topics, so I don’t like to speak on things I don’t know enough about.
However, that’s just me. I’m sure there are athletes out there who are extremely knowledgeable about these topics and who have strong opinions. I find nothing wrong with those people speaking out against issues.
You’ll remember my column about the “national anthem protests” started by Colin Kaepernick in which I argued everyone, including football players, has a right to peacefully protest. I also fully support how much effort professional sports teams put into being a part of gay pride month. I love seeing the videos of Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby walking in the D.C. Pride Parade each year.
In both cases, those causes are something important to those players who participate or something that has personally affected them. I feel certain those athletes have put thought into the causes they support. Because those athletes are on such a big stage, it seems obvious they would want to make sure their opinions are solid before making them public.
And I’m all for them doing exactly what. Athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities have the ability to make change many of us don’t — they have money, prestige, a large audience, etc. It seems only fair they’d use that platform in the right way.
However, what I’m not OK with is athletes shooting from the mouth when it’s clear they haven’t thought through what they’re saying.
Women’s soccer was finally in the spotlight recently. The U.S. Women won the World Cup, and it was a great sight to see. It made a lot of women feel empowered.
Unfortunately, just before winning the World Cup, U.S. captain and team leader Megan Rapinoe made vulgar comments about not wanting to go to the White House if her team should win.
It’s fine to not want to go to the White House. Several teams and players have chosen not to. But to speak so vulgarly demeans your message. It makes you look like a spoiled, angry child who hasn’t given this any thought. It makes it seem OK for kids to talk like that and to disrespect the president, which it isn’t — regardless of your views on his politics.
You don’t want to go to the White House? OK, fine, that’s great. Release a statement saying why not. Make a well-thought-out argument. State your position.
Don’t speak off the cuff and use curse words. It doesn’t get your point across, and athletes need to remember the whole world is watching.
Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor of The Tribune.