It has been almost 50 years ago since runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists on the podium during the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Recently, 49er’s Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, sits through national anthems to protest racial injustice in the United States. High profiled athletes continue the practice of bringing social and political issues into the playing field. Protests during sporting events by athletes have gone back since the early 1900s. The actions that these athletes make can have both positive and negative turnouts as they play for not only their contracts, but their beliefs.
They spread the message
Once an athlete has done the deed, everything from social media to fanatic blogs, starts exploding with information and opinions regarding the political or social issue. The more prolific an athlete is in their profession, the more talked about they become to the public. The public always takes interest in those athletes, which allows for the protest to be discussed more frequently. By having the prominent athlete trend online, the message that they presented also trends.
People “Follow the Leader”
When it comes to protesting, the first follower has more impact than the first practitioner. It is when that person goes along with expressing the same opinion as the first practitioner that the message becomes much more stronger. Once you have those first followers, the more the practice seems understandable and the public takes interest in the topic. An example of this can be utilization of wearing the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag during pregame. As soon as other athletes saw the first practitioner, they begin to follow along with the form of protest.
Exercising the 1st Amendment
An athlete in the United States is usually an American Citizen, who are entitled for their right to protest. There can be a lot of backlash towards the action of protesting, but it is the right of a citizen to address social or political issues in the forms of protest. An athlete can freely speak or protest so long as there is no libel, slander, or intent of disturbing the peace.
Offensive to Others
An athlete may have spread the message, but it is not always in good taste. They want advocate these issues, but their approach to present it can be offensive to the public. Such as what transpired with Colin Kaepernick, who responds to racial injustice by sitting during the national anthem. People find it offensive because people view it as a sign of disrespect to the flag and all that it symbolizes. The various issues athletes wish to present could have its integrity tainted if the practice is not accepted by the public.
Loss of Supporters
When a prominent athlete takes the opportunity to protest, he could lose the support system they have developed over the course of their careers. If the protest does not look appropriate, sponsors could pull their support to the athletes they use to support their brand. Even organizations can pull support for the team that the athlete represents. Recently, the Santa Clara Police Union announced that officers would boycott their presence at the 49ers’ games. An athlete is just as capable of losing support as they are trying to find support.
Pursuit of Self-Interest
Sports are typically a team sport, and one person should not be above the rest of the team or the organization that they represent. If an athlete’s protest is disturbing the playing ability of the rest of the team, then the athlete is damaging his relationship with his teammates. If the majority of the team is protesting then it wouldn’t be distracting. An example would be the Los Angeles Clippers wearing their jerseys inside out to protest the comments made by then owner Donald T. Sterling. An athlete shouldn’t stand alone in a team sport.
Whether a person is a student or professional athlete, they have the right to protest. They have to accept whatever outcome emerges from their action and take responsibility for it. So long as you follow the appropriate conduct of being a sportsperson and citizen of the US, an athlete is free to protest.