Opinion: Sporting figures using their voices for good isn’t a bad thing

Sydney Smith, Reporter (She/Her)

Sports and politics. Two of the most dominating, discussed and debated topics in the U.S. It’s hard to have a civil conversation about either of these interests and their opposing sides without getting into an argument, as proven from personal experience.

In any and all ways possible, I try to keep these separate, just like science and religion. They don’t have the same kind of connection, but the same kind of possible disputes await.

But now, the much-anticipated return to having sports on television that would normally be viewed as an exciting thing to enjoy is driving Americans apart.

Instead of being able to watch Lebron James and the Lakers fight to make it into the NBA Finals peacefully, fans are analyzing what NBA players and athletes post on social media.

I get it; we’re in a different time than the years before, and athletes are now speaking up and trying to use their platforms for change. But that’s where the problem is; fans, media personalities and reporters alike are criticizing athletes for how or why they choose to talk about topics like  the Black Lives Matter movement or the need to vote.

Instead of using what “controversial” topics these prominent figures talk about as an excuse to be angry with them, sit and think about the potential benefits first.

If a young kid sees Lebron James or Chris Paul standing up for what they believe in, maybe a whole new generation of kids will feel the same empowerment. If NBA teams offer their arenas as voting centers for the presidential election, maybe more people who are scared to vote during this pandemic will go out to these socially distanced polling places.

And that last idea is not an “if;” it’s happening. The Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks have offered and committed their arenas, training facilities and headquarters as voting centers in their respective cities.

Their activism doesn’t stop there. These teams are also working towards efforts that encourage voter awareness and participation. The Pistons have made their state’s primary and national election dates paid days off for staff.

Voting is commonly referred to as a civic duty to be completed by American citizens of legal age. It seems that some people forget that these athletes are also American citizens with a duty to complete and are people who also have a platform to encourage that.

Sporting figures are allowed to have their own opinions, even if it clashes with your own. Sporting figures are allowed to use their platform to stand up for what they believe in.

Yes, there’s a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and being disrespectful, but that isn’t something new. People have been vocal about their beliefs for as long as I can remember.

But telling athletes to “shut up and dribble” does nothing. Actions speak louder than words, and if NBA teams can be committed to giving a wide amount of people the opportunity to vote, then that’s something to support.

Sports and politics. Two topics that people feel very strongly about. Why not combine them for good?