When I’m writing this post, the sports world has been shaken up. Most notably the NFL, but other leagues such as the NBA, NHL, and MLB have been also. With the current political climate, systematic racism and blatant white supremacy, there’s no way athletes won’t and can’t just stick to sports.
As a sports fan, I’ve personally never understood why fans only wanted their athletes to “stick to sports.” It always baffled me when people said it and it still does. Basically what they’re saying is they want the athletes to go out and entertain them and that’s it. You don’t want them to have any substance or life outside of their sport.
That’s not only completely ridiculous but also unrealistic and hypocritical. Let’s tackle that first word. It’s ridiculous to assume players are just going to put their heads down and play sports. They weren’t put on their earth to just play sports. They’re humans with feelings, emotions, and families just like everyone else.
It’s unrealistic because no one can just center their life around sports. Not one single person only thinks or plays sports all day long. Then sports would no longer be fun or entertaining. Everything would be boring and there’s already enough of that in the world.
Hypocritical can stretch out to anything but I want to deal with the protests. No one looks at JJ Watt and tells him to “just stick to sports.” No one looks at Gronk and tells him to “Just stick to sports.” It’s white privilege that makes them not say anything. As soon as someone noticed Kap, everyone was quick to shun him, create offensive t-shirts, make him into a meme or bash his character.
Kap created a camp for black children to learn how to deal with the police, donated almost a million dollars to various charities working in oppressed communities and has just announced the addition of another camp. No one wants to talk about what good he does and instead focus on the way he protested.
The protest that originally started as a way to bring attention to police brutality, black lives matter and inequality in the United States. It has since been reduced to “disrespecting the American flag and our military.” Then again, people would have a problem no matter how or what the athletes protested.
Sticking to sports takes the athlete’s identity and throws it out the window. Football is their career, but it’s not their everything. As evidenced by the video of Michael Bennett, being an NFL player doesn’t spare you from police brutality. He was almost killed after an incident he wasn’t involved in. Just let that sink in for a moment. He was almost killed for not being involved with an incident and instead for being black.
If that thought doesn’t sicken you, there’s something wrong with you. If you push the protest off as being unamerican, you’re the problem. Making a change in the world sometimes means making a change in yourself and looking inward.That’s what athletes are doing and trying to get others to do. Systematic racism will only change if the system changes and the system will only change if people make it change.
Athletes will no longer just stick to sports and it’s about time. They’re putting their lives at risk every day, sometimes just by walking outside. The least you can do is respect them.