Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Athletes should be lauded for pointing out injustice

Lebron James can do a lot more than just "shut up and play." Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Every-Thing Sports

By: Jermaine Every

“Shut up and dribble.” That statement has been a hot topic. So has social commentary in general from athletes. I’m not sure why the public has such an issue with athletes speaking out on the societal issues they feel strongly about.

I’m sure John Carlos and Tommie Smith faced some backlash when they raised their black-gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics. But that was during an era in which blacks were still fighting for civil rights and equality. That fight isn’t over. Neither are other issues at the forefront of our society. The “#MeToo” movement comes to mind. Which is why I can’t understand why we haven’t heard the phrase “shut up and act” or “shut up and sing?”

Actors and other entertainers have always taken a stand against societal issues and provided social commentary via their various forms of art. Whether it’s a commercial, a song, or a gesture or wardrobe statement, they’ve made their feelings known for years. Frequently, top actors and actresses have used award ceremonies to voice their opinions. Singers have made songs about their views and opinions. So why has it become taboo for athletes to do the same?

One of the reasons I feel it’s an issue for athletes is because a lot of them have been blacks and minorities speaking out on this country’s treatment of blacks and other minorities. This started with the Civil Rights Movement. Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and many others used their star power as pro athletes to further the Movement. Anthem protests were sparked by police brutality and killing of unarmed blacks and minorities. The president has made himself a very polarizing figure with some outlandish actions and statements, most of which have caused a ripple of divisiveness in our country. Some have caused athletes and entertainers to speak out. However, the athletes are the only ones to get flack.

The “#MeToo” movement was started because of sexual assault/harassment allegations against some of the movie/television industries top executives, actors, and actresses. This shined a light on some ugliness that has been going on behind the scenes of our entertainment industry. Recently, there have been some allegations against college basketball programs paying players as a result of an F.B.I. investigation. I know there are different departments that handle different things. But why is it that women feel unheard reporting these allegations to authorities, yet we have task forces dedicated to finding out who’s paying what college basketball player?

I’m not lost on the fact that these two issues are completely different. I’m not trying to downplay either one either. I have a close friend who was the victim of sexual assault. It hurt to find out what happened years later and knowing I wasn’t there for her. I’ve also seen what those illegal payments have done for some of those athletes and their families.

The one thing that has pissed me off more than anything is the way the media, and our society as a whole, has treated athletes who speak out against social injustice, or societal issues they feel strongly about. The “#MeToo” movement was seen as shedding light on the horrific behavior of people in power. But when LeBron James speaks out against societal inequities, which are painfully obvious, he gets vitriol spewed his way? Injustice is injustice no matter how you slice it. Whether it’s sexual assault, police brutality, racism, sexism, or any kind of ugliness that plagues our society, anyone who chooses to speak out against it should be afforded the same opportunity. I don’t give a damn if it’s an older white NBA coach like Gregg Popovich speaking out on social injustice regarding blacks and other minorities, or if it’s the men affected by harassment or assault in the #MeToo movement, everyone is afforded that right under the First Amendment. And yes, you’re also afforded the right to offer rebuttal or critical commentary under the First Amendment as well. However, in the interest of being a decent human being, shut the hell up criticizing people speaking out on the obvious injustices that plague our society.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome