For a long time, I was strongly against athletes bringing social issues into sports. I thought that athletes bringing social issues into their own sports was similar to anyone in an office job going off about the same topics at their desks.
I began to wrestle with the idea once LeBron started with his "More Than An Athlete" statement, and since then, have had a change of heart.
I think that athletes bringing their own perspectives on social issues to sports is a good thing, and here's why:
Unlike people who work regular 9-5 jobs, athletes have a voice that reaches millions of people. It seems in today's social climate, people always talk about how if there was a dialogue between sides, things would be better. Well, athletes offer much-needed dialogue, it's just how people respond that can put things into a negative light.
For example, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down with Green Beret Nate Boyer and was able to have an extremely productive conversation on the way that Kaepernick would protest social injustice in America. While I don't necessarily agree with Kaepernick, I think that an athlete taking a stand and then having a dialogue with other people with a different perspective is the proper way to conduct opinions.
The other reason why social issues should be in sports is that they bring meaning and personality to the individuals that play such sports.
I'm not saying that players who remain quiet about issues aren't meaningful, but the ones that voice their opinions give fans and other viewers the ability to see their personalities come to life during an event.
Two-time NFL MVP and super bowl XLV champion Aaron Rodgers may not speak much on social issues, but it seems like what he has said translates to the way he carries himself on the field.
On many things, Rodgers chooses to remain stoic and keep his opinions to himself. I think most people who play Rodgers on Sundays would say that he carries himself like that on the field, and with that, is able to force people to guess what his next move is.
Though, the one time he did break his silence, he expressed how NFL teams should just stay in the locker room for the national anthem like they used to. After this statement, I watched Rodgers during the national anthem the next few games. Like his vague stance, he also gave a mysterious front during the anthem. He stood neutrally, with a blank expression on his face, arms at his side, not showing any kind of support or distaste towards the anthem, just a neutral personality. Much like that of his on the field.
On the other hand, take an outspoken personality such as LeBron James. James has continued to speak out against social injustices and continues to speak his own thoughts and opinions, which is a personality that comes to the court whenever he plays. If you watch a LeBron game for 5 minutes you can see LeBron sharing opinions with coaches, refs and players alike. He never fails to voice his opinion on a bad call or go crazy after an And-1, showing that same outspokenness he has off the court.
Without social issues in sports, many people would stay comfortable in their perspectives. Athletes taking a stand challenges people to think critically and question their own perspectives on various topics, which in turn may create a more chaotic environment, but one of dialogue that must be had.