Remember a few years ago, when fans spoke out against the NFL players who spoke out against police brutality by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem? What was it they said, something about how they should do it on their own time?
When is an athlete’s own time? His or her lunch break? How about their morning jog? In their living room, when nobody else can see them other than maybe their confused cat?
How about their own social media accounts? Would that be considered “Their own time”?
Forget the fact it’s silly to ask someone to protest on their own time, when the whole point of protesting is to bring awareness to something by doing it in front of as many people as possible. But if that really is what fans want athletes to do, social media would seem to be just the right place for it.
But from what I’ve seen with so many athletes— along with coaches, writers, actors, etc.—speaking out against police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, I’m thinking fans really do prefer the living room.
I say this because instead of respecting the rights of these athletes to protest on their own time and on their own social media accounts, their followers have clapped back with statements like, “Aw, too bad, bro, I was a fan of yours,” “See ya,” and “Shame, I was going to buy your jersey.”
Wide receiver Chase Claypool, the Steelers newest second-round draft pick, took to Twitter last week to do some speaking out of his own:
“Overdue Necessary Chaos
Let our voices be heard...#BLM”
Claypool was referring to the many protests that continue to take place around the country in the days following Floyd’s death. Considering many of these protests have erupted into violence, Claypool sent out another Tweet to clarify what he meant:
“Violence is not needed to ensue chaos...
Chaos to me, in this current political climate is millions of people around the world simultaneously joining the #BlackLivesMatter movement. A movement that was under supported for far too long. To me that is chaos, chaos for the people who have contributed to institutional racism and chaos for the elites who have not only benefited, but abused their white privilege. That is chaos, beautiful, necessary chaos.”
Are fans good with this? I know better. I’ve seen this all play out before. It’s not what these athletes are saying or how and when they choose to say it. It’s that they’re saying anything at all.
Pirates youngster Cole Tucker spoke out on Twitter last month, and he was met with the typical “I’m a big fan of yours, but.....” replies.
Former BTSC writer Christopher Carter recently penned a great piece for his current home, DK Pittsburgh Sports. It wasn’t inflammatory. It didn’t try to incite or fan the flames. It just wanted people to understand.
DK Pittsburgh Sports lost its share of subscribers and followers because of it.
Former Steelers guard Ramon Foster has also recently joined DK Pittsburgh Sports as a writer. He also penned a great piece where he wanted people to understand his perspective living life as a black man. Did the fans try to understand, or did they unfollow him on social media the second they read the headline?
Foster could have chosen to take a knee a few years ago. Instead, he used his new job to speak out (not exactly his own time, but I’m guessing his boss signed off on it). People didn’t have to worry about having it “shoved in their face.” They didn’t have to worry about their escapism being ruined as they sat in their recliners on a Sunday afternoon. They simply had to go read the article.
All Foster wanted people to do was walk a mile in his shoes, and he chose a platform away from the football field in order to get his message across— I don’t even think he wore a helmet when he wrote it.
That’s what fans were talking about, right? They did say they wanted athletes to protest at a more appropriate time.
Again, is it good enough? Judging by the fact Claypool will lose a few jersey sales because of his Tweets— although it is kind of pathetic to see 40-year olds telling 20-somethings they won’t be buying their jerseys— those goal posts have been pushed back again.
Oh well, the good news for professional athletes is their social media accounts are theirs. They don’t seek fans out. Fans go looking for them. They don’t have to like the messages athletes send out, but they should at least respect their right to say them on their own time.
After all, that is what fans said they wanted.