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Opinion: Should Athletes Get Involved in Politics?

The Trump administration showed us that no voice deserves to be ignored .

Lebron James

The constant protests against the government of Donald Trump, made athletes raise their voices and take public political positions. / Photo: IG-kingjames

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Londoño

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Leer en español: Opinión: ¿Deberían los deportistas involucrarse en la política?

The administration of Donald Trump was marked by many crises in American politics. Several problems of life in that country were enhanced by Trump's nationalist and xenophobic discourse, and perhaps one of the most relevant voices raised against him was that of the Black Lives Matter movement (or BLM for short).

BLM sought during the Trump administration to frequently protest against police brutality towards the black community and in general put the treatment that is being given to this group of people under the microscope. With Trump tacitly supporting white supremacist organizations, as well as cases of police brutality becoming increasingly visible thanks to social media, support for BLM came to the forefront of the political conversation.

This, as a consequence, made it inevitable for various celebrities, including athletes, to support the BLM cause. However, many Americans also criticized famous athletes for taking "a political stance," as if their job or financial status took precedence over their citizenship.

There were many cases of protest by the different athletes, but two were the most "visible": Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest during the national anthem at an NFL game and the enormous effort by the NBA to make his message more visible of social justice. The latter included the formation of a coalition with the players to promote social justice, the adoption of pro-BLM messages on jerseys and courts, and acts of protest at every game by the players.

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The response on the part of the ultra-conservative American right was always the same: these athletes must focus on their work and not get into politics. There was a particularly outrageous case of a FOX news anchor telling Lebron James, who has led protests in the NBA for quite some time, that he should "shut up and dribble." Ironically, this attitude of the American right created a powerful tool against it, with almost all American leagues replicating messages against the government narrative. Who knows if the history of these elections would have been different if Trump had been willing to listen to them.

Although it is true that athletes have a unique platform, which allows them to reach out to thousands of people around the world (in what could be seen as free political advertising for certain interests) here there simply cannot be an objection that they should limit themselves to their work.

And it is that athletes are also people who can exercise their freedom of expression and express their opinion all they want about the situations that affect their community.

In the case of BLM, it is particularly ironic that people think they shouldn't have a say, considering that the vast majority of American leagues are made up of multiple members of the black community. These are people who, in some cases, have experienced police brutality, economic inequality, and discrimination first-hand. They should also have a say on these issues.

Finally, it is impossible to ignore the formative function of the sport when we speak of athletes and politics. Many see professional athletes as role models and if they see them get involved in politics, even with opinions they do not share, perhaps they can become more interested in this aspect of life.

We cannot think that athletes are only tools for our entertainment.