Stop Telling Athletes to Just Shut Up and Play

13 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

cardaleJones

A fan on Twitter chided Ohio State quarterback for expressing his views on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

PHILADELPHIA—Last month, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones took to Twitter to express his support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and was met with the typical response from fans that African American athletes get whenever they speak on social justice issues.  

Jones tweeted: “#AllLivesMatter why is that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien in custody African-American …You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define “All”?

An Ohio State fan responded with: “Worry about getting us fans another championship …Stay out of this bulls—.”    

Jones shot back at the fan with a Tweet steeped in sarcasm: “Sorry Mr. master, I aints allow to tweet nothing but foolsbaall stuff I donts want you think I more than a foots ball playa sir.”

The fan then apologized to Jones and later shut his Twitter site down.

Last week, I wrote about the complaints that several former Philadelphia Eagles players have leveled about ill treatment at the hands of head coach Chip Kelly, some of which has accused the former Oregon coach of racism. In a recent story on the Bleacher Report website, a pair of unnamed Eagles said that it wasn’t racism, but Kelly’s need to have total, dictatorial control of his team.

Like it or not, some veteran ball players aren’t going to take too well to that kind of coaching and some like former Eagle Brandon Boykin are going to complain about it, possibly in front of a live microphone.

Now whether or not I agree with the athlete isn’t the point. His right to be honest and have his own opinions is. While I have no problem debating the veracity or even the credibility of an athlete’s point of view, it bothers me when fans and media people tell athletes, especially African-American athletes, to just “shut up and play.”

For example, you might have thought that former Eagle Cary Williams’s complaints about Kelly’s hard practices causing team burnout late in the season may have been a little ridiculous considering some of the completions he gave up in some of those games, but I appreciated the man’s honesty.

And it’s hard to take reporters seriously when they complain about clichéd responses from athletes when sincere, heartfelt answers that challenge whatever the prevailing narrative is at the moment also bring scorn.  

Of course, the first response that seems to come from social media or sports talk radio when professional athletes speak their minds is that they have no right to complain because of the millions of dollars they make. It’s as if money is supposed to suppress your right to express yourself.

You’re supposed to turn a blind eye to injustice just because you’re rich. Your financial security means that you can’t protest your work conditions the way Curt Flood did in refusing to be traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, the move that eventually led to free agency in Major League Baseball.

Being a Black man of means doesn’t mean that you won’t still have problems getting a cab in New York or Boston. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t get pulled over by the cops for no reason other than the color of your skin like any other Black person in America.

For African-American athletes there’s a perception that they should be grateful for making the millions they make and shouldn’t rock the boat by daring to make a statement about something that impacts everyone, including them. While there is a certain amount of gratitude that these athletes probably have for their God-given abilities, they’re in the NFL because of that ability and their hard work. It’s something they’ve earned…and they shouldn’t be expected to give up their First Amendment rights in order to enjoy it.

What’s really ironic about all this is that I’ve heard those complaints in blue-collar, union towns like Philly, Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.

Seems to me that you folks need a little bit of a history lesson, so let me help you out.

Were it not for people like Walter P. Reuther (United Auto Workers), A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), and Cesar Chavez (United Farm Workers), people who refused to just “shut up and work” and rocked the boat instead, that 40-hour work week, with the living wage, the paid sick and vacation days and the healthcare plan that so many of you union workers enjoy wouldn’t exist.

Might want to remember that the next time you want to shut down your favorite athlete on Twitter.

 

 

 

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