By Andrew Garcia
People first, figures second.
Being a professional athlete, musician, public figure, celebrity, etc. doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your expressions and attitudes as a fellow American. This sad, frustrating misconception has grown tired and needs to be addressed. Immediately.
For some odd reason, people want those with elite social influence to keep their thoughts and opinions isolated from the rest of us. We fail to acknowledge the fact that they too have feelings, opinions, thoughts and introspective on relevant and extensive issues. So why do we ignore them? Why do we refuse to recognize their existence, and treat them as inanimate? Nonsense.
This has to change. This has to end now.
The notion for athletes to “stick to sports” or “focus on your craft, and your craft only” is exhausting and oppressive. When journalist Laura Ingraham attacked NBA superstars LeBron James and Kevin Durant for their political and social commentary discussed during an ESPN interview, controversy sparked, and the conversation began once more.
The news reporter responded to the comments made by James and Durant on her Fox News Program with brutal and offensive remarks, suggesting it is “unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid to $100 million a year to bounce a ball” and that the pair should keep quiet… “Shut up and dribble”.
As a member within the human condition, it is the responsibility and right for every and anybody to join the conversation, whether it be regarding politics, social issues, public opinion, etc. They are people, just like you and I, and deserve the same platform to express their opinion whether that be in your favor or against it.
Athletes, public figures, musicians, etc. are very much part of the conversation as anybody. They are role models to some, heroes to children; they are major influences within many different aspects of culture. And, as encouraged as they are to keep a private, secluded life from the public eye, society constantly is caught in trying to explore their hidden, closed off lives.
Mutual belonging has become one of the greatest taboos of our society. Why? Why do we continue to see an effort in keeping these people quiet and irrelevant?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen those with social influence sound off and share their attitude. Muhammad Ali, one of the most significant and celebrated individuals of the 20th century, used his leadership and legendary status to speak out in opposition of a number of issues. Along with sating his opposition of war, he also provided heavy political commentary, joining many during the radical Civil Rights Movement. Colin Kaepernick, along with a majority of players in the NFL, used his platform to speak out against social injustice by demonstrating during the National Anthem. Derek Jeter launched a media platform for athletes to speak their mind truthfully, honestly, and in their own words. Musicians from Marvin Gaye to Kendrick Lamar use their music to allude to changes in society, speaking to the heart of people and institutions worldwide. We’ve seen many celebrities join normal, everyday people in national protest advocating for women’s rights, gun control, equal pay, etc.
Yet, despite all this, we continue to buy their jersey, attend their games, stream their songs, follow them on major social networks, give them attention, subscribe to their stories, follow their commentary….
They matter. They’re just like us. They’re relevant and just as much a part of the movement as we are, and it’s time we give them the same respect.
So please, enough with silencing and shaming. Give those with social influence a chance to contribute and be a part of the conversation. We have responsibility to make the make the world a free and better place, for all occupations, for all races, for all people. For everybody.
We’re all just human.
Let everyone embody the change; let others be part of the same human experience. No more shaming. No more silencing.
Live. Speak out. Share. Contribute.
People first, figures second.