So let’s talk about athletes and protests.
This is not the first time athletes have staged political protests. In the 1960s, Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion and probably the most famous athlete in the world, refused to serve in the United States armed forces. In those days, men ages 18 to 35 were required to go into the military if the government needed them. Ali’s refusal was seen as a protest of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists to protest the treatment of Black people in the United States after they won the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter race at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
And, of course, Colin Kaepernick and many other athletes have knelt during the national anthem at games in recent years to protest police violence against African Americans.
Some argue that protests do not belong at sports events. Some people think sports should be a place where there are no political statements.
However, an athlete in the United States has the same rights as any other American. All Americans have the right to protest as long as the protests are peaceful and do not interfere with the rights of others.
But athletes’ protests are different. People may pay more attention to well-known athletes than a person who isn’t famous. However, just because someone is good at shooting a basketball or catching a football does not necessarily mean his or her opinion on public issues is more important than anyone else’s. That’s especially true when other people have studied these issues for a long time.
That’s why it is good that the NBA players do more than just give their opinions. When they agreed to resume the playoffs, the players got NBA owners to promise to use their arenas as voting sites in the 2020 election. Using these large buildings will allow more people to vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Finally, when we say everyone, including athletes, has the right to protest peacefully, it means everyone — not just the people with whom we agree.
That may be the hardest part of accepting protests.