Photo Courtesy of Matthew Roth
Should athletes ‘Shut up and dribble’? Students, like the nation, are divided
October 23, 2020
The recent Black Lives Matter protests were a landmark in modern sports history, as it was the breaking point of the proliferation of social justice messaging in modern sports. Teams have always fought for equality, whether it be for people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community, but aside from the NFL national anthem protests, sports teams didn’t proactively fight for social justice. With the return of pro sports to national audiences on TV, people were confronted with Black Lives Matter messaging painted on NBA courts or players wearing BLM messaging on their jerseys. With such hotly debated topics like systemic racism and police brutality, West Essex students displayed a wide variety of opinions on these kinds of messaging.
Students who support this messaging in sports believe that athletes should not be criticized for speaking out, citing the fact that these athletes are real people in a position of power fighting for admirable causes.
“People often forget that they’re people and not just entertainment, and the slander they get on social media for advocating for BLM or getting ‘political’ is absurd,” junior James Ignacio said.
“The players of all of these sports are fathers, brothers, sons and uncles first,” senior Robert White said. “They are players second. To be told ‘shut up and dribble’ to people who just want to see social justice I find utterly ridiculous.”
While some students believe that social justice messaging in sports is something that brings awareness to various issues, others believe that it often creates more division.
“I don’t mind athletes using their ‘non-work’ platform to express how they feel, but when you bring it to sports where a lot of people may disagree with what the message is that you are trying to repeatedly express, it gets frustrating and pushes people away from the cause,” junior Matt Nadel said.
“I think that we should be able to respect black athletes and the individual causes separately,” junior Joe Mihalik said. “When a sports team supports a controversial organization that doesn’t have to do with sports, it seems politically motivated, and furthers existing divisions in our country.”
Another argument people have against social justice messages in sports is that it takes away enjoyment from something that is used as an escape from reality.
“[Sports] should bring everyone together to enjoy without any sort of judgement,” junior Avalena Masi said.
White disagreed saying, “I completely understand where people are coming from when they say sports is an escape from regular life; however, that is their platform and I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to use it.”
During quarantine, social justice issues have been brought forward and elevated as people don’t have much to distract them with. However, due to the division in American politics, there are still a significant number of people against these ideas in sports. Sports have been a vector to fight for social justice throughout history modeled by people like Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens and their roles in fighting for civil rights. The reality is that this activism will remain a part of professional sports until perceived inequalities in society have been rooted out.
Photo Credit: “Damian Lillard at the Black Lives Matter Protest in Portland” by Matthew Roth (https://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewalmonroth/49972281768/)