Athletes like to express their opinions, just like every American citizen. However, they’re faced with an insurmountable surge of negativity when they bring up politics. Just look at the backlash Colin Kaepernick received for kneeling during the National Anthem or the criticism directed at the New England Patriots players not attending the White House ceremony. Thousands of people screamed that they were out of line for bringing politics into the sports world.
One example of this was when Steph Curry responded to the CEO of Under Armour. After going through the replies, it took less than ten seconds to prove my point.
“I love how everyone thinks it’s okay…”
Well Ryan, that’s because it is okay. Steph Curry has the right to speak about politics, just like everyone else. What goes on in this country affects him just as much as it affects you. Is it possible that you're angry because he has a different opinion than you? I feel like that's what you're trying to say here, Ryan.
The event that prompted me to write this blog post was the incident with Dexter Fowler. There was an article posted by a St. Louis Cardinals fan page on Facebook and the headline read, “Cardinals Outfielder Expresses Discontent With President Trump.” The admin of the page posted it while saying, “Yet another athlete outspoken about the president.” Outspoken? How is speaking about a disagreement with a law outspoken? They didn't even read the article. If they had, they would've known that Fowler never mentioned the president.
The comments section was a mess with the overall message saying, “Shut up, entertain us and play baseball!” The grammar is mentally detrimental to anyone who cringes at grammar errors (aka me), but I added direct quotes so you can truly get a sense of what people were saying.
“Tell him to keep his mouth shut we don't need to hear another Entertainer to try and tell us about politics he's paid to play baseball. Play baseball or go to some other City.”
“Don't care about athletes opinions. I watch you play a sport, not to hear you entitled opinions. If this outfielder thinks he is so smart, How come he didn't run for president?”
"We don't need that kind of PATRIOTISM IN ST LOUIS....we believe in supporting the leadership in our country, if you can't.....well, you can leave. We are Missourians who stand for what is right, if you can't, you can be replaced. Cardinal Fans are awesome, you, Fowler, just might not fit in."
“No one cares, Dexter. We don't need this kind of publicity in St. Louis. Show up, play ball, leave the politics to the politicians...”
In response to the last person, that logic makes no sense whatsoever. Fowler is an AMERICAN CITIZEN and therefore, anything that happens IN AMERICA impacts him and his life. He has a right to speak about it.
This next comment was especially ridiculous.
"Athletes, musicians, actors and the like - they need to remember that they perform for the fans - that's their job, to entertain us with what they are good at. These athletes need to learn that they should keep their political views to themselves instead of alienating half of the fan base. Sorry, but in their profession, the rules are different for them in what they can express. Open your mouth - risk controversy - as evidenced here in the comments."
People can entertain us while also being smart and having educated opinions. And who said that the rules are different for what they're allowed to express? I don't think that's written into their contracts. While they might risk being criticized, that's something that everyone has to deal with. You are allowed to disagree with their opinion, but you cannot criticize them for having one.
After this whole fiasco, many people came to Fowler's defense.
"You guys are pathetic. You either didn't read the original story or are dumb as a box of rocks. Dexter was asked a question re: his family's troubles visiting family in Iran. He answered it like anyone who cared for their family. There was nothing political about it. I am ashamed of you as Cardinals fans. In the meantime, Dexter appears to have the leadership qualities this team needs."
"Fowler, and all athletes, have all the same First Amendment rights as all of us. There's no reason he shouldn't voice his opinion simply because a large audience will hear it; if anything, he should speak out more, especially because what has to say is completely valid and respectful. In situations like these it becomes hard to identify with the "Best Fans in the World," because when we act like this, we're exactly the opposite. Politics aside, Fowler should be praised for this, not torn down. Somewhere out there, Stan the Man is looking down upon Cardinal Nation and shaking his head. It's just sad."
"Let's be honest, the problem is not that a baseball player is talking about politics, the problem is that a baseball player is saying something that you all disagree with? Can we just call it what it is?"
Well said. It's also interesting to note that a large majority of the fans criticizing Fowler had terrible grammar and sentence structure. Meanwhile, the people standing by him were able to form correct sentences. Does this provide evidence that those with open minds are more educated? Take what you will from that observation. Fowler responded to the situation by saying:
He is absolutely correct. Politics directly affect athletes. Politics, whether we like it or not, affect each and every one of us. That is why it's important to do research and educate ourselves on what is going on in this country. If an athlete, musician or anyone else in the public eye wants to speak up for what they believe in, then by all means - we should encourage that! We need to emphasize that mindset; especially in today's America, where millions of lives can be drastically altered because of politics. It's important to spread awareness, acceptance and create conversation about the change that needs to be implemented.