Del Olaleye: If you do not like what athletes have to say, ignore them

Lebron James stirred things up. NBA.com

Do we want our sports favorites to have an opinion? You’re never supposed to ask a question you already have an answer for but I just did it. We don’t want their opinions. At least not ones that don’t agree with our own. I’m not sure where that comes from. We go through life talking to people who don’t agree with everything we say. We don’t immediately respond with a shut up and do your job to the offending party. Athletes and coaches appear to be held to a different standard. When we want their opinions we’ll give it to them. Just ball. Don’t talk.

Sports are most often pointed to as an escape from the real world. There are times when sports truly is an escape. Houston fans rallied around the Astros in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. That World Series run could truly have been something to take people’s minds away from their lives being completely changed by a natural disaster. That “escape from the real world” phrase is often used in less dire circumstances as well.

For transparency’s sake, I rarely listen to athletes speak. I care about the games being played and very little else. That extends to sports talk shows on the major networks like FS1 and ESPN. Miss me with all the opinions.  Once the final score is decided it is time for Netflix. Not everyone is like me and some people like to hear what players actually think. That is until they have an opinion that strikes the wrong chord.

Players have been the targets of fan ire for a quite a bit. Recently Lebron James and Kevin Durant’s comments on a video podcast went viral because of a Fox News host. That host is playing to her audience. I can barely take what she said seriously. When you’re on Fox News and you tell “entitled athletes” who are critical of a Republican president to shut up you’re just doing your job. Laura Ingraham probably could have been fired for negligence if she hadn’t said what she said. Players are not the only people speaking out. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are the two most high profile coaches in the NBA right now and also the most outspoken. Popovich and Kerr have both taken their shots at the president and faced some backlash because they’re both supposed to be just basketball coaches.

I can’t think of a logical reason why people in sports are expected to stay silent on social issues. Is it because they play a game for living? Are they any different than your coworker you’re more than happy to get into a lengthy discussion with? Some of us, myself included, avoid discussing certain topics because we know a good number of people just will not be moved off their platform. They’re like a roided up American Gladiator in the Joust. You may get a shot or two in but you’re fighting a losing battle.

We’re willing to listen to opinions from radio hosts and TV personalities from the start of our day to the 11 pm Sportscenter but the coaches and players being discussed would be better served acting like extremely life-like robots. Some players take that approach. It might be more healthy to be seen and not heard. Those twitter streets can get ugly. If we were given the option to control their movements and words with controllers we just might. Maybe players would be better off simply serving as a representative of the hometown team and nothing more. Wear the jersey, play hard and talk about nothing but the game. All they need to do is make sure they’re available for that three hour block of time that we’re in front of the TV or at the stadium/arena and then go recharge at their docking station until the next time they’re needed.

Before anything else athletes are just people and people tend to speak their mind from time to time. In this case these people happen to have an elevated platform and every now and then they might choose to voice their opinion. An opinion you can take in and assess or completely ignore.

If you actually ever get offended by what an athlete says it really is your fault. You could always be watching Everything Sucks! on Netflix instead.


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