Athletes should be able to speak out on social and political issues. Like every human, they have thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. Just playing on a professional sports team should not disallow them from speaking out on these beliefs.
However, theirs is a ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ situation. Athletes are in a unique situation in which they have much more influence than a normal person. Because of this, more people will be listening to what they have to say. They will certainly be subject to more criticism for what they think, while also being able to influence others’ thoughts. For example, when Kyrie Irving said that he believed the world was flat, he definitely faced much criticism, and I certainly thought of him differently after I found out. Another example comes with Aaron Rodgers, who, early this season, mentioned that he was unvaccinated. While this is perfectly fine, as it is his own choice, he faced backlash for his decision. While these two men definitely faced criticism, they assuredly also influenced others’ beliefs as well. Thus, with their greater influence, they must be careful with what they say, as they have the power to change others’ thoughts and opinions.
Another concern that could be brought up is the idea of sponsorships. With sponsors, athletes are paid to promote products or services, whether or not they truly believe in them. If people are unaware that an athlete may be sponsored, they might take the words of this athlete as their true beliefs when they are actually being paid to say those things. So, for this reason, I think it is important that athletes state their sponsors so that people are aware that this athlete’s thoughts are not his own, but a company’s.
So, athletes definitely should be allowed to speak on their beliefs. But, even if they are allowed to, should they? I think this one depends. If you’re an athlete, there is a high risk for you with very little reward involved. Sure, you can say what you think, but why would you? If you’re a player like Aaron Rodgers, by speaking out on his own beliefs, he will most definitely alienate many people, some a part of his fanbase. No matter what your thoughts are, there will always be someone who disagrees with you, and, while that should not affect the way they cheer for you on the field, it probably will. Why lose some of your fans, when you can just say nothing? While I’m sure the athletes don’t care, maybe their organizations and teams do. So, for this reason, I think that athletes should not speak out on their beliefs to the general population.