Two of the greatest athletes in the history of North American sport died a week apart. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali and hockey super-duper-star Gordie Howe are sadly no longer with us.
The two were entirely different when it came to openly discussing politics. Ali became the most recognizable face in the world for a time period mostly because of his dislike for the way America was. He refused to go to Vietnam and was convicted of draft evasion. He was banned from boxing because of it, losing over three years of his prime. He owned one of the most famous quotes from that time period: “No VietCong ever called me n-----.”
Ali was the most outspoken athlete of all-time when it came to politics. Gordie Howe? Not quite. I Googled “Gordie Howe Democrat,” “Gordie Howe Republican,” and “Gordie Howe politics” and came away clueless as to his political stance.
When Ali died, we got a weeks worth of media blowhards begging for a current megastar athlete to openly discuss politics the way Ali did.
“LeBron, how do we defeat ISIS?”
“Aaron Rodgers, what’s your take on Trump and his plans to build a wall?”
“Cam Newton, are you ‘Ready for Hillary?”
Of course, the people who are calling for these famous athletes to ‘finally speak up’ are the same ones who would immediately slam Tom Brady if he campaigned alongside his buddy Trump, and they’re the same ones who would roll their eyes if Stephen Curry rambled on for 30 minutes about gun control in an NBA Finals pregame press conference.
We live in an era where if you post a political message on Facebook or Twitter, you had best be prepared to spend an hour of your time replying to the pissed off people who disagree with you. Ya, the debate is fine. It’s great that we live in a country in which we are allowed to debate. But, seriously. What is in it for a major pro athlete in 2016 to join this debate?
More important, what is in it for us – in the real world – for a major athlete to speak up regarding real life issues in 2016?
Guys like LeBron do not have a clue what the real world is like in 2016, so why in the world should we pressure him to speak about it? He’s a guy who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 17-years-old and he’s a guy who hasn’t heard the word “no” since around 1992. This is not his fault, of course. It’s just the way it’s been in this country for some time.
Just know that growing up in the 1980s and ’90s like LeBron did is far different from growing up in the 1940s and ’50s like Ali did. Ali dealt with real life issues every single day. LeBron has been shielded from real life issues for decades now.
Now, I despise the idea of censorship, and I agree that we live in a country right now that has far too much censorship. But I’m absolutely fine with today’s pro athlete shutting his or her mouth and just “sticking to sports.”
We have far too much misinformation in this country as it is. We really don’t need rich pro athletes to add to the political drivel.