Before and after the 2016 general election, numerous athletes and coaches voiced their opinions regarding the outcome of the election and the future of this country.
Some prominent figures, such as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, openly voiced their support for Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency. Others, such as Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr, articulated their dissatisfaction with the results of the election. It can be tempting to summarily dismiss these figures as unfit to speak about topics other sports, however, athletes and coaches are megaphones for larger groups of disenfranchised people.
Therefore, they should use their popularity to express political opinions because what they say resonates with multiple audiences who might not have outlets for these feelings. Coach Popovich from the San Antonio Spurs articulated this best in an interview as he reflected on the recent election.
Toward the beginning of the interview, Popovich actually mentioned that his opinion did not matter, but was insisted upon by the interviewer that it did, with the interviewer saying “there may be people that feel like you speak for them. That your voice carries weight, even if you guys say the same thing.” Popovich conceded and responded, “…what gets lost in the [election] process are African Americans, and Hispanics, and women and the gay population…I’m a rich white guy, and I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it. I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now, or a woman or an African-American, a Hispanic, a handicapped person, how disenfranchised they might feel.”
These comments might seem trite, but they speak to a broader level of dissatisfaction that many athletes and communities are currently experiencing.
More broadly, politics and sports cannot be separated because both reflect important dynamics with regards to race, socioeconomic status, cultural norms, stereotypes, status, power and values.
Essentially, politics are hard to remove from any medium because they are reflective of every facet of life.
Thus, when commentators like Will Cain, for example, argue that athletes should not use sports as a mechanism to advocate political opinion and change, it misses the purpose of the obvious intersection between the two.
Athletes are more than just athletes; they are icons, role models, and brands. If an athlete can enlighten audiences by bringing attention to issues facing specific communities, they should do so.
To deny the importance of athletes and coaches in the context of political advocacy is implicitly regarding them as one-dimensional.
Because politics and sports are so closely intertwined, the coaches and athletes themselves should be vocal regarding their opinions because it helps viewers understand politics from a different lens.