The role of celebrities beyond their specific fields has always been a hotly debated issue. Throughout history, there have been celebrities who have used their status as public figures to champion a cause. When the cause is charitable, there tends not to be much backlash. However, when the cause is political, they have not only brought the ire of people who disagree with their politics but people who simply think it is not their place to comment.
There are many out there who think that celebrities should keep quiet when it comes to politics. Society tends to have a two-sided approach when it comes to celebrities.
Many people read gossip magazines and watch reality shows because they want to know everything about their favorite celebrities. Another significant portion of the population doesn’t want to know anything about the personal lives of their favorite celebrities. They are afraid that by learning too much, they will find out things they don’t like. They worry that it will make it harder to enjoy the things for which the celebrities are famous.
Athletes Top the Charts
Above all other celebrities, athletes are at the top of most people’s hush lists. Many people accept that art and politics are intrinsically intertwined. Because of this, they don’t care so much when an actor or a musician uses their celebrity status to promote a cause about which they feel strongly. However, people don’t allow for the same connection between sports and politics.
Many people look to sports as an escape from all the other struggles of life. They don’t want to view athletes as anything more than icons. They don’t want to learn anything about their personal lives that could make supporting them more difficult. At the same time, though, these same people want to hold athletes up as role models for their children based on their physical prowess and hard work.
People want to keep athletes in a bubble and only exam their work on the field and the data behind the numbers they put up. The popularity of sites like https://www.feedconstruct.com, which has a devotion to analyzing a player on the field, continues to grow rapidly. However, there is no growth in the desire to analyze who players are off the field.
It can be difficult to create a hollow role model, though. Children are not going to get a true idea of what a role model should be if they are only looking at one or two attributes of a person.
The Pressure of Having a Platform
While there are certainly some athletes who are happy to simply do their job and be praised (and sometimes maligned) by the public, others feel greater pressure. Many athletes are aware that they have this platform that they could potentially use to help make a difference. They are also aware that this window of opportunity may be very short-lived.
Athletes are used to facing pressure. They tend to face it from a wide variety of sources. During a game, there is pressure to win. That pressure comes from organizations, coaches, fans, and the athletes themselves. This is only a portion of the pressure faced by professional athletes, however. There is also pressure to live up to the public ideal that exists around professional athletes.
Beyond all of that, there is the pressure, both external and internal, that many athletes feel to do something good with the power that comes with their celebrity status. Many athletes relieve some of this pressure in a completely conflict-free manner, such as highlighting causes that are in no way controversial, like fighting children’s cancer. However, others feel the call to support things that can be a bit more divisive.
How Sports Leagues Have Often Stifled Expression
Sports leagues and individual organizations have always played a large role in keeping athletes in line. Being an advocate for a cause in individual sports has always been easier than in team sports. It also helps if you are one of the greatest to ever play the game. Muhammad Ali was an athlete who never shied away from a fight, whether in the ring or in the public arena.
He did not hide his political beliefs away in order to try to conform to the supposed ideal. He used his status as one of the greatest boxers of all time to inspire people to take up a cause.
Things were much different for Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick kneeled for a cause and ended up getting pushed out of the NFL as a result. Unfortunately for Kaepernick, the league placed worries about potentially losing viewers above Kaepernick and his fight to raise awareness of racial injustice. Perhaps things wouldn’t have gone so poorly for Colin if the 49ers had thrown their support behind their quarterback and his cause.
Sadly, they did not, and no other team was willing to pick up the star athlete and deal with the potential backlash from the white supremacist portion of their fan bases and the league itself.
While the NFL essentially blackballed Colin Kaepernick over his decision to take a knee during the national anthem, they have welcomed many other players who are guilty of a wide variety of sins, from domestic abuse and rape to dogfighting.
The NFL is so afraid of politics in sports that this is how they draw the line in the sand. This display makes it even more difficult for athletes with hopes of using their celebrity status as a means of promoting change.