Head-to-Head: Professional athletes, amateur activists

Timmy Ryan, Sports Editor

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has jumped through countless hoops in an effort to finish the 2019-2020 season successfully. Spending an estimated $150 million on the NBA Bubble as well as ensuring all 814 active players and staff members remain COVID-19 symptom-free, they have made many sacrifices to get where they are now. The league has done too much to have it all thrown away due to a protest, which has nothing to do with basketball in the first place.

29-year-old African American Jacob Blake was gruesomely assaulted by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Black community as well as many Americans were enraged after hearing Blake was brutally shot in the back seven times. On Wednesday, August 26, the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to take the floor for their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic, and the rest of the league followed suit. All games have been postponed for the time being.

In addition to the NBA, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has also started a boycott of their season. Various NFL teams have suspended practices, and the New York Giants have even begun discussing a plan to not participate in a regular season game in an act of protest.

While these athletes should voice their opinions, they should also be doing their jobs.

The average NBA player is compensated $7.7 million every season to play basketball.  Millions of fans tune in to watch games everyday. Bringing social justice issues into the NBA has actually hurt their ratings.

As soon as the NBA allowed players to sport empowerment phrases on the back of their jerseys and plastered “Black Lives Matter” across center court, their ratings declined 4%. People watch basketball because they love the game. There is no reason to mix the NBA and social justice issues, they have only hurt themselves.

Our nation has been suffering from racial influenced issues for the past 400 years. These athletes have genuinely good and powerful intentions when they protest social injustice during their games, however that is not the right platform. These players can do effective things for the Black Lives Matter movement, but taking a knee and sporting an empowering phrase on their backs are not going to get much done.

Athletes have some of the highest influence over our generation via their social media platforms. Here, these men and women voice their opinions, and can advertise for events, such as racial inequality protests. 

Athletes inspire many people across the world. They should most definitely use their power to stand up for what they believe in and speak out, but that time is not while they are competing. Sports are supposed to bring Americans together as we cheer on our teams, let’s not ruin that with the negatives of the outside world.

Click here for In-Depth Editor Emma Cho’s opinion.