“I Can’t Breathe” or “Just Shut-Up and Play?”


December 23, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013

dixie chicks LeBron

LeBron making a statement with his warm-up fashion choice


Let me explain.

In 2005 a popular country singing group at the time called “The Dixie Chicks” amped up their notoriety if not their album sales (actually, their sales plummeted) by making a startling confession in a foreign land. At their concert in the Bush Empire Auditorium in England they announced to their adoring audience that yes, they too, were ashamed of then President George W. Bush and the US invasion of Iraq.

The crowd cheered and the band led by singer Natalie Maines played on.

dixie chicks band

The Dixie Chicks just shutting-up and singing…

Little did they know they set off a firestorm of hatred, vitriol and a backlash that Snidely (as in Whiplash, close, right?) would have envied.

Back home in Nashville and across the South, former fans, egged on by local radio DJs and television hosts, chanted epitaphs and burned and destroyed Dixie Chicks CDs. Suddenly, an “on the rise” group was on a roller-coaster ride downhill with no end in sight.

America. Love it or Leave it. Or, in this case better yet, leave what you think unsaid. Or else.

Musicland USA, it would appear, loves God, Guns, the Duck Commander and military invasions. Roughly in that order. Freedom of speech is fine so long as it is the right kind of speech. And if they think you are wrong well, hell hath no fury like redneck fury.

dixie chicks DD

well, under the right circumstances, I suppose.

A radio host at the time, Dr. Laura, demanded that the “chicks” and by implication, all entertainers, simply “shut-up and sing” and leave the protesting to those folks, I guess, with little or no marketable talent.

Which brings me to the recent less “noisy” form of protest and freedom of speech invoked by several high-profile NBA athletes. And a question now making the rounds, should current NBA players simply “shut-up and play?”

In the wake of the highly divisive and controversial death of one, Eric Garner, an African-American who died in a NYC police officer’s chokehold recently captured on video, no less than LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant have all taken to wearing warm-up t-shirts with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe.”

Many, again led by Lebron James, have also taken to twitter to express remorse to the family of Mr. Garner and frustration at what they see as abuse by police to young men of color and the need for reform.

For the NBA it is both a matter of branding and marketing (as is everything with the NBA mega-bucks house that former Commissioner David Stern built) and of course, money.

dixie chicks david stern

The NBA is all about slam-dunks, high-fives and Benjamins, baby.

The NBA has enforceable contracts with companies like Nike that guarantees players will wear Nike brand warm-ups prior to tip-off. Failure to do so or the decision to cover-up the Nike logo with a rival brand (as some have done) has, in the past, resulted in fines from the Commissioner’s office.

For now though, new commissioner and Stern protégé Adam Silver has taken the high road. No fines but a gentle rebuke. Save your social commentary for off the court.

Look, wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt is not exactly the same as say declaring your allegiance with the 1960s militant group The Black Panthers or even engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in Mobile, Alabama. Kobe, Lebron and KD aren’t facing police attack dogs and high-pressure water hoses as they march for reform against the KKK and the local cops, both in their own way hell-bent on destroying the message if not the messenger.

And when LeBron tweets out his rage at what he sees as police brutality from the safe and cozy “confines” of his 8,200 square foot Miami palace it’s not exactly the same as writing a letter from the much smaller confines of your Alabama prison cell as Dr. King did so famously back in April of 1963.

dixie chicks mlk

Not exactly the same as Tweeting is it?

And when Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder says in effect that all black men are Eric Garner, it also doesn’t rival the sheer logic and power of Muhammad Ali when he quipped that “I ain’t got no beef with the Vietcong, they ain’t done nothing to me” as he refused military service over his own Muslim religious beliefs.

dixie chicks muhammad ali

No beef with the Vietcong, Howard Cosell, now that was different.

But today’s high profile athletes have something that the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and the “greatest” ever, Muhammad Ali, never had at their disposal.

Absolutely, unprecedented commercial power, leverage and access to a global audience at their fingertips.

Worldwide retail sports empires worth billions literally quake at any and every public thought, move and word uttered or displayed by the likes of LeBron, Kobe, and KD. Endorsements mean millions, even billions, the wrong type of branding or behavior can send a companies stocks plummeting faster to the ground than a LeBron slam dunk.

dixie chicks Kobe

Kobe and Nike. A nation unto themselves.

If you add up the top 50 NBA players in terms of salary it is greater than the total GDP of over 75 nations on planet earth. The game invented in 1891 for exercise at a YMCA with a peach-basket is today an unrivaled money-making machine.

So, while you may not see LeBron or Kobe forming a human protest chain blocking the streets of LA anytime soon or engaging in serious civil disobedience (lest they tarnish their own “brand”) they could still literally change the world with much simpler, less overt means.

A simple call from them or their agent to the CEO of Nike or Adidas or Puma or Pepsi requesting (demanding) they do more, much more in the legislative arena to advance true reform could be equally, even much more powerful and lasting than donning a t-shirt before a game. Requesting to attend the next Board of Directors meeting of Pepsi or Coca-Cola (Gatorade, folks, Gatorade) to demand the Board direct its lobbying division to push for legislative reform at both the federal and state level is the type of sophisticated and nuanced power that frankly, Dr. King never had, probably couldn’t envision ever happening.

An African-American in the White House who is a fan of the NBA?

Dr. King would have appreciated the irony there if not the access to demand change.

Especially to athletes of color. In the 1960s star black NBA players like Wilt Chamberlin and Bill Russell weren’t able to drink from the same water fountains as their white teammates let alone stay in the same hotels or even eat at the same public restaurants.

Today they can speak directly to the President and command the attention of global, corporate giants. I wonder, do they truly get this truth of basic, political power?

dixie chixks water fountain

No harm, no foul apparently, circa 1963.

Then, such access was unthinkable.

Today, maybe too obvious or even taken for granted to be properly exploited and leveraged.

The real question today may not be should NBA players just “shut-up and play.”

No, the real question is, Do today’s NBA players and for that matter all top athletes know just how much difference they can make in our world?

The better question?

Do they have the courage of their own convictions to even dare try?

Somewhere the Dixie Chicks are envious. But that doesn’t make them wrong.










42 thoughts on ““I Can’t Breathe” or “Just Shut-Up and Play?”

  1. Braydon G says:

    I for one think all players should just shut up and play. These idiots get millions for shooting a ball through a hoop, I don’t need to have to listen to their politics, go run for office, if not then just do what you get paid billions to do

  2. Jade M says:

    To answer the question on whether the athletes should “Just Shut-Up and Play” I would definitely disagree. Average civilians and specifically those who are African-American look up to men such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Americans are aware of the brutality and significance of Eric Garner’s death and want to see that those who are more fortunate such as these celebrities can identify with whats wrong and have a voice despite “just being a ball player”. Compared to the outspoken opinions made by the Dixie, the simplicity of the athletes wearing the t-shirts spoke volumes, they recognize whats going on in Blacks lives and acknowledge it !

    • Kerssey N says:

      I completely agree with your statement and in addition, the first amendment gives them the freedom of speech which allows them to speak on any topic they want. I feel as though that was a great way to show that the basketball players are more than just players and that they are interested in what goes on in the world and how they feel about the situation.

    • Brandi S says:

      Thanks Jade this is so true. I think that most people think that athletes should just do what they are paid to do but I think that the t shirts and the symbols showed that they too are a part of the communities and have a say i what is going on. Black live do matter.

  3. Corey A. W. says:

    I Feel as though the NBA should let the players protest. No business should have any bearings on your personal beliefs. Although the NBA has these extensive Nike contracts and contracts with other companies they should have no effect on a peaceful protest. For example when the former Los Angeles Clippers owner was going through his controversy last season and the players refused to wear their pregame warmup shirts, it made an impact and it was peaceful. It also helped the NBA, they were able to get a substantial amount of views from people wanting to see the protest for themselves.

  4. Tyler B says:

    In a country like this I think it’s only fair that people get to express exactly what they believe. The part in which things get complicated is that your average Joe doesn’t have millions to lose when they take a political side, which these super stars would. Unless these people have a definitive stance and are willing to lose it all, they should just stick to what they do best.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Being that the United States of America is the land of the free, opportunity, liberty and freedom of speech, I see no wrong about the NBA players speaking out on their beliefs. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and so are they. To continue on what Jade said in her comment,  people like Lebron James, KD, and Kobe Bryant has the POWER to make a CHANGE, to make a DIFFERENCE in the way society as a whole is view whether you believe it or not. So yes, the NBA should allow the players their right to protest whether they have a contact with Nike or Reebok, they have the same rights as we do.

    Braydon G, They are not just drilling a ball for MILLIONS of dollars, Those guys work extremely hard for their money and sometimes injuring themselves. Yes they make much more than a average person, but they deserve that and more.

    • Donald S says:


      You, as well as many others fail to look at this from all angles. Think about the Nike company who paid millions of dollars to be part of a contractual agreement for the players to promote the Nike brand by wearing negotiated and approved warm up attire. The players defiantly devalued the Nike corporation by stealing millions of exposure opportunities via television viewership. This inarguably amounts to a loss of sales for Nike. It is not fair for the company to take a hit because some players partake in a political demonstration, despite rules as a rank and file member of the NBA league.

      • Rhonda says:

        I hear and understand evrything you have said. I see it from all angles and i stand firm on what ive said. Everyone is entittled to their own opionion. Players like LeBron James, KD, and Kobe Bryant, has a opportunity of a lifetime and thats to make a a difference, to show compassion, and to let their voice be heard. I dont think they defiantly devalued the nike corporation brand. Sometimes you have to do things for the sake of freedom. OR , stand up for sometime thats right. Nike is a billion dollar corporation, What have they lost? I concur, its not fair to the company, but as ive said before, when they made that decision to support the ” I cant Breathe” movement, they knew the cost. Why should you be one to judge? Being an African American back during the times of slavery, they were not given an option to speak out, you were whipped, beating to death and etc. Dr. Martin L. King, Rosa Park and others made it very possible to speak out and make a change. Why turn around now? So, yes, i have looked at it from all angles, have you?

  6. Donterrell E says:

    In my opinion, the athletes today value money and fame over doing what is right and helping in is type of issues. It’s good they wore the shirts before two or three games but what are those guys doing now, nothing. They went back to their “normal” life. If anything they should do more, just as much as Dr. King or Ali. Just like all these athletes advertise Nike they should do the same for these types of situations. Think about how many people, young children, and teenagers wear Nike product just because they see those guys wearing it in the commercials or playing in the game with that stuff on? Think of the impact they could make if they stood up for the people who don’t have the opportunity they have. Then again I don’t know how they really feel or what they are thinking. Those athletes who wore the shirts may not really care and just doing for to gain more publicity or they may really care about other people problems. I have no respect for floyd mayweather, he is a great example of someone who can make a difference but only care about himself. When it comes to “shut up and play”, I would have to disagree. They should have an opinion just like anyone else in the U.S.

    • Donald S says:

      Donterrell E:

      You feel “it’s good they wore the shirts before two or three games…”? Did you think to look at the negative impact it had on the Nike company? Nike pays a lot of money for an enforceable contract for players to wear appropriate attire during warm up. The reason for this is to increase product awareness, improve and maintain customer loyalty, increase sales and ultimately grow the company’s value. The NBA players’ decision to wear inappropriate warm up attire can be linked to a devaluation of the Nike Company. NBA games have a large viewership, hence the reason for Nike’s decision to contract with the league. This foolish act deprived Nike the opportunity to have their brand displayed to millions of potential new and repeat customers.

      How would you feel if you owned a company that paid for advertising and you didn’t receive what you were contractually due?

  7. Donald S says:

    “Just Shut-Up and Play” – maybe. Freedom of speech (including demonstrations such as LeBron’s warm up shirt) was originally designed to protect citizens from the federal government; as such freedom of speech was viewed as a natural right. James Madison so eloquently stated (in Federalist No. 10) that such rights exist as pivotal in the establishment of a healthy republic. This being said, limitations exist. The NBA has contractual agreements with companies to promote brands by displaying logos during warm up. LeBron (as well as others) defiantly broke these agreements in their decision to wear unapproved warm up attire. The commission’s (NBA) political and business decision to allow this insubordination to take place unpunished rests somewhat uneasily with me. Although the players’ actions were for an arguable “good” cause, we must remember that contracts exist for a reason.

    Nike made a business decision to enter into contract with the NBA in hopes of further promoting their brand. Nike’s costly (but lucrative) decision exists as a marketing strategy intended to increase product awareness, improve and maintain customer loyalty, increase sales and ultimately grow the company’s value. The NBA players’ decision to wear inappropriate warm up attire can be linked to a devaluation of the Nike Company. NBA games have a large viewership, hence the reason for Nike’s decision to contract with the league. This foolish act deprived Nike the opportunity to have their brand displayed to millions of potential new and repeat customers.

    Every action has consequences and freedom of speech is not an all-empowering permission slip to act without regard to such consequences. Although players have the right to share their feelings, they equally have the obligation to exercise sound judgment and share their political agenda appropriately.

  8. Tochi M says:

    The issue on whether these high profile NBA athletes should just “shut up and play” is a dicey one for me to say the least, for nothing other than the fact that issues like these have different facets to them. On the one hand, the Unites States Constitution has given citizens the right to many things- some of which are freedom of speech and expression. In light of this, it could be argued that these athletes should have the right to protest whatever injustices in whatever form they see fit. However, these athletes are held at a different standard than every other American citizen. Why? Well, i’m glad you asked! That brings me to my second point:- When athletes like Lebron James signed their contracts to play for the NBA, they inadvertently waived any rights they had that if exercised would violate their contracts. Their contracts have stipulations demanding that they wear warm up gear from NIKE and such; well they are bound by their contracts so unless they have decided to stop making the millions that come with being an NBA player, they have to hold up their own end of the bargain by playing by the rules of their contract.
    But then again, one can call the limitations their contracts put on their ability to express themselves( especially on the court) an infringement of their rights to freedom of expression and speech. Do I think this is unfair? Certainly! But it doesn’t change the fact that they still need to adhere to the stipulations of their contract no matter what. There are other ways in which they can protest peacefully and in good conduct without violating their contracts.

    • Donald S says:

      Even though their contracts limit their ability to express themselves, is does not infringe on their rights. Everyday we engage in contractual agreements, whether formal written agreements or societal norms, that limit our ability to express ourselves freely.

      Can an on-duty police officer choose not to wear his/her uniform for the day and wear a “think pink” shirt in support of breast cancer awareness? How about a McDonald’s employee that wants to wear a t-shirt in memory of Travon Martin, instead of their required McDonald’s uniform.

      Suppose a business owner sells his company to a new owner; can that previous owner solicit clients within the agreed upon radius of the non-compete clause? Florida is a “right to work state”, however, non-compete clauses are enforceable.

      We all want to think that we can say, think, do whatever we want, but all these actions have consequences. The NBA players being forced to wear appropriate warm up attire is no different than a McDonald’s employee being forced to wear their uniform.

      When we stop putting these professional athletes and other celebrities on a pedestal and realize they are simply performing their job, we can more feasibly hold them accountable for following / not following the rules of their workplace.

  9. balston says:

    “Be the change you want to see in the world”-Ghandi

    Professional athletes, entertainers, actors and many other public figures possess the power of influence, negative or positive. I agree in part with Donterrell, that many individuals who are in these “out front and influential” roles do appear to focus much more on the “stacking of dollars” than how they can positively affect change in the communities from their positions. But, for many they only see their roles as a job and earning their pay is fulfilling the requirements of the job. But, I wholeheartedly believe the scripture, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48) I believe that individuals should have the ability to support their personal causes and share their protests in such roles whether on or off the job, but, even that is done to a degree. One person’s protest and/or beliefs can be seen as suppression of another’s beliefs and/or rights or even blatant disregard for policy/procedures/or company culture. For many years individuals have utilized their positions of fame to impact civil injustices. To do so, I want to believe, requires courage and conviction, whether on the basketball court in front of thousands or at the corner grocery where only you and clerk witness the picture of integrity and justice.

    To answer the question, I think one must possess integrity and courage to “be the change one want to see in the world.” Therefore, I think we live in a society where utilizing the platform of fame and fortune should be one used to positively shine a light on civil injustices no matter the situation or “shade”.

    If not me, then who…

    If not now, then when…

    B. Alston

  10. Laurie S says:

    In my opinion, players should “just shut-up and play”. When they are in their uniform they represent their team and the NBA. They have signed a multi-million dollar contract and should set an example by following the rules they signed their name to. When they disobey the rules they are showing everyone that they are above the rules and they could care less. If these athletes would like to voice their opinion on something non-team, non-NBA related they have many avenues that would capture the attention of their millions of fans. They could Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. from their personal account all day and reach millions in minutes. They could go to any radio station and be given an instant interview and speak their mind. They could go to a newspaper/magazine and give an interview which would be published immediately. They need to leave their personal beliefs to their personal time and be professionals when at work.

  11. Jordan M says:

    i think that the players should just shut up and play. i understand that they are entitled to their own opinion about the things that’s happening in society, but I think players are doing things like this more for attention. Players do not do anything for the regular crimes that occur in today’s world. People in general make things like this into a big social issue. They will wear the shirts and say things on social media just for the big things that happen. They do not try too much to make a difference in everyday crime, but when its something big they want to be like everybody else and say how the government is not looking out for everybody. Like i said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I feel like they should do that on their social media or something of that nature opposed to before/during a game, which is their job.

  12. Jalesa W. says:

    I feel like it should be left up to the players. We have freedom of speech and expression. The only thing the players did was wear a shirt. They didn’t say anything and they didn’t protest. They didn’t even keep the shirts on for the entire game. I view this situation like this. I wear a cross around my neck every day. I shouldn’t have to take it off just because I clock in at work or just because someone doesn’t like it. That shirt is just something that they believe, just like my cross. My cross (or their shirts) doesn’t interfere with my job performance. There are more important things to worry about that what simple is wearing. I understand they are role models, but we are humans. Many of these athletes have tattoos of whatever they want. We don’t mandate those, so we shouldn’t mandate a t=shirt.

  13. Jason C says:

    I am on the “shut-up and play” side of this topic. While the fans may agree or disagree with whatever stand the athlete is taking, no fan tunes in just to see what the athlete has to say. Being wealthy and/or highly visible is does not make it ok to protest or speak out on social issues while on “company time.” There is always a risk that ownership does not agree or not support the same stance. However, in order to be a professional athlete, you must have some sort of ego. Many times that ego enables athletes to think they are bigger than the game itself. They know they hold the leverage when it comes to their employment. Often times we forget that freedom of speech does not mean say whatever you want. Save your social politics for some other avenue.

  14. Kasey says:

    The Dixie Chicks made a statement that set many in the country community up in arms, not wanting to show support for what the band said led many to go completely against what they said. In the case of James, Bryant, and Durant I am sure that the NFL would like for them to keep statements to themselves because these individuals represent the NFL and their views may not line up with the players views. The NFL is in quite a position because they do not want to lose major support by showing they are in favor of the issue raised by the players or that players can break contracts freely, but the NFL does not want to lose support by showing that they do not stand behind the issue either. It is not hard to see that it is the players that put the NFL in a position where they can no longer be a neutral party to the governmental issues going on in the American community.

    Breaking a contract is wrong even when you do so for what you feel is a just cause. There are many ways that basketball players could stand up for the issues they feel strongly about and share the issues with fans young and old. If a player started taking actions off the court like making personal appearances and comments. These players could start implementing change ideas and people will hear their voices. These professional basketball players will start encouraging more people to stand against the issue, and show how each individuals voice makes a difference.

  15. Kelsey G says:

    The article above shows just how different the celebrities and music artist are not able to be as free as a regular person. The Dixie Chicks stated their opinion on one topic that they felt strongly about and lost a huge population of fans because of their opinion. We all are entitled to freedom of speech but that obviously is not the case. If a regular person would state their opinion on something they could offend one or tow people but they would quickly get over it because they do not have a large influence over a larger group of people.
    The contracts the basketball players have restricts them from doing certain thing but at the end of the day they also have an opinion of their own. For example by them just wearing a t-shirt was a statement louder than them opening their mouth to say anything. I am sure that it caught a large group of people’s attention and showed that they were not afraid to speak out.
    I do not believe that these artist and basketball players should shut up and play because so many celebrities have a reputation based off of something they have done or said and these simply voiced their opinion in a civil way. This was a peaceful way of getting a crowds attention. I think it shows they will not be conformed into what society wants them to be and that they are also humans that are disturbed over these issues.

  16. A Blackwell says:

    So should they keep their mouths shut and continue to make their millions? It depends on how you view them. As celebrities? Powerful athletes? Elitist? Or underneath everything, could they just be human (just really rich ones). I think in terms of their contractual obligations they shouldn’t do anything that would risk nullifying or breaking it. They did make an exchange after all. In exchange for all the millions I will receive, I will play and follow your rules. However, how far do the rules reach? During their personal time? Off the court? I think that as long as there is some type of loophole or they do it in their free time, they should be able to express themselves freely. People by their products, watch them on a regular, and they are greatly admired. The influence they have in enormous. Who knows, their opinions depending on how they are displayed could change the world.

  17. jsdanley says:

    Everyone in this country has opportunities to say what they feel and be concerned about a certain subject and speak on it. What makes the NBA players different from us? I know they are getting paid to play and where certain uniforms with certain logos and that is great. A regular person working at Mcdonalds probably wouldn’t be able to wear a I can’t breathe shirt during work hours. They would proabaly get fired and it start another riot of freedom of speech and protest and things of that sort. Now the NBA players such as Lebron would not get fired and he would just either get fined or told not to wear it. I honestly don’t think he cares because it doesn’t effect his game. I believe that it is okay for higher caliber to make stance and have voice for the people who don’t have one or can’t. I think that telling them that they can’t raise awareness is ridiculous is it because its a touchy subject. I’m sure if it was a subject less touchy and a subject that didn’t have so much controversy behind it, it would be okay and that’s sad your basically stating that people can only step and speak when the issue doesn’t cause that much attention and social media awareness. I think that’s the whole purpose of a lot of things is for people to raise awareness about touchy subjects in order for our country to grow.

  18. Ben F says:

    Freedom of speech. It cuts both ways. You may say pretty much anything you like. You can fly the flag. Or burn it. But, and here’s the catch, you cannot expect people to welcome your foray into speaking your mind. Yes the Dixie Chicks were vilified. But, no one stopped them from saying what they wanted to say. As I recall, in a thoughtful and provoking photo-essay, they posed nude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly covered with only their hands and the hostile words of others. When executives for Chick-Fil-A or Duck Commander speak their mind on gay marriage, they may come off as provincial, or worse, but they say it. People who disagree will then call for boycotts and they may or may not work. I don’t think they were very successful in the case of Chik-Fil-A. It’s hard to get people to stop going to a place with delicious sandwiches no matter how homophobic they may be. My only point here is, say what you like, but prepare for the consequences.

  19. Justin B says:

    i think that if you are a public figure, and are a role model, that you should just shut up and play. People are going to change their opinion just to be like their hero. celebrates don’t realize the impact they have on regular everyday citizens. one word from Lebron James could change a million peoples perspective on things just because of their hero.

  20. Gentry says:

    I think professional athletes should leave their political views out of their profession. They should not be able to publicly advertise their beliefs during a sporting event; however, I think they should use the millions they do make to start programs and speak at public events about their beliefs outside of the athletics. They are internationally known people and are looked to as role models but that does not mean they need to use their profession as a place of advertisement. Players should play and leave the politics out of the sports industry.

  21. Zach N says:

    In my opinion the players need to suck it up and continue making unreal amounts of money. Yes everyone enjoys getting their point across, but when you are making millions of dollars a year playing basketball, stick to what you are good at and what profession you took up. Studies show that 3 out of 10,000 high school basketball players make it to the NBA each year, to beat those odds is phenomenal. Obviously stand up for what you think is right, but its not a bad idea to take a second and think about everything you have already accomplished.

  22. Colin M says:

    I understand that the “I can’t breathe” statement is a very important statement to make. We have first amendment rights to do things such as protest on television especially through quiet and peaceful means. Personally, I think the way he is going about it is much better than the way most people have been handling it. Rather than rioting in the streets, he can use his fame to spread the message in hopes that we can make change in the ways some police officers have been treating people in recent events. It is our job as Americans to stand up for what we believe in, because if we don’t, then how can we possibly be the greatest country in the world?

  23. chester m says:

    I think it is a great thing for the players to wear the shirts and express how they feel. Athletes are looked at as role models and if they step up and voice there options in the right way then people will follow them. They actually have a lot of power that they do not use and they can help make a big difference In peoples lives and society. I wish more people would of wore the shirts and supported the cause in a non violent way. It was a All white high school basketball team that got banned from a tournament due to wanting to wear the shirts and that is wrong. The police made it seem like it was them against whoever wore the shirts and that is wrong.

  24. Brent S says:

    I support the artists and athletes in their efforts to share their opinions. Though they play and sing for a living, they are still entitled to their freedom of speech. A tremendous amount of young people idolize these individuals, and though they may not be perfect at times, they have an unique opportunity to speak on behalf of many others. Often times, individuals needs these celebrities to lead these effort in order to show them that it is okay to speak up or stand up for a cause. On the flip side, with great power comes great responsibility. These celebrities must be careful when they do speak out as they are already held in the spotlight. If they make poor decisions or create a unfavorable image, they will lose all credibility. I don’t think these celebrities should hesitate to support a cause they believe in, but they should consider the implications, both good and bad, of their choice and actions. Much like all of us.

    • India Wilcox says:


      I agree with your post. I think it is well thought out and from an objective point of view. While reading the blog post, I am trying not to reply subjectively. I believe these athletes have the right to voice their political views, they are just as human as anyone else and feel the same joys/pains. I also believe you have to choose the correct platform, time, and place for political views. Was this the best platform? Can anyone of us be the judge of this? As we live in an imperfect world(we are all subject to sin), I believe this is a matter of individual perspective. On one hand this was a breach of contract with Nike and they may have lost endorsements, on the other hand if these were your sons, brothers, family members or friends dying in the hands of law enforcement would you feel obliged to stand up in the effort to make a change?

  25. Chris D says:

    My guess is that the top tier professional athletes understand full well the power of their celebrity status. After all we’re talking about individuals whose agents negotiate multi-million dollar deals on their behalf based largely on the player’s marketability. These people know that when they’re a hot commodity, they can ask for the world and someone will give it to them. Perhaps they could do more than tweet or wear a t-shirt, but some folks (and their agents) simply don’t like the attention of leading a crusade in public. They should however, be allowed to quietly and respectfully express their protest. Some of the quietest messages actually speak the loudest.

  26. Katherine Ri says:

    This is an interesting post. Athletes and other certain stars have so much power that can be used for good. They help brands sell and bring in sales for games and other forms of entertainment. They are our dancing monkeys. It is interesting to see how people have changed from 2005 to now. In 2005, the Dixie Chicks lost all of the power. Here in 2015, it is considered to be a freedom of speech by more people. There are still some protesters, of course, but it seems to be more acceptable to be yourself and speak freely and act freely. It would be interesting to see what exactly sparked this kind of movement in way of thinking.

  27. Kyle G says:

    Being an red, white, and blue-blooded American, I don’t think it’s right to tell anyone to “Shut up and anything” thanks to the First Amendment that I have taken an oath to defend. Children all over the globe, especially in America, look up to professional athletes and genuinely aspire to be like them. From the best shoes to the dazzling moves on the court, kids of all gender want to be like their favorite basketball player. LeBron, Kobe, and KD just happen to be some of the most popular players, and taking a stand really did take a sort of fortitude because they knew the could receive some backlash (not anything close to that of the civil rights predecessors) in the form of fines or fan base. However, others must note that these players silently protested in a calm, responsible manner. They were not involved in riots. They weren’t on anyone’s doorsteps. They did not make racial remarks aimed at dividing our nation into black versus white.
    With that being said, I do feel that there is a double standard. Why can they make a statement, even though non-verbal, yet the Dixie Chicks receive death threats and are all but forced to lay low for a while. They received tremendous backlash for their comments. Why? Is it because they were a country music mega-group that spoke out against country fans’ beliefs (that war is apparently always a good thing..?). Is it because they were ‘privileged’ white women speaking out against a white President’s actions? Or was it just the timing of everything? I have no clue, but I do know that if a group of athletes can make a statement, a group of white country singers should be able to do the same.
    Ultimately, my answer would be, “No. Don’t just shut up and anything.” With that comes the social responsibility to go about protests/making statements in a productive, not destructive manner.

  28. amceagle11 says:

    People need to stop looking to NBA and NFL players to be heroes and alter-egos of themselves for some political statement, etc. They are professional athletes. They should shut up and play. Now, if they are inclined to get into the fray, then they should likewise be peppered with legitimate questions and probes on their so-called beliefs and opinions. But the media that cover the stars are more often than not star-crazy worshippers themselves, so that will not happen. These efforts, for the most part, are mostly glam-seeking egomaniacs trying to get on the popularity wagon with some statement shirt or bombastic tweet about some national or political issue. Let’s get real, I don’t see a lot of deep-seated, well thought-out opinions and value statements here.

  29. Horace says:

    Before they were athletes, they were Americans and as Americans we are guaranteed a right to free speech. I understand the people who feel that it may violate the athletes contract if he wears an apparel that is not sanctioned by a sponsor but understand that we are not discussing run-of-the-mill athletes or ones who are known use their celebrity status for naught. We are talking about Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant – all three combined has only gotten themselves in ONE public relations snafu! I make that point to stress the importance of this issue to these athletes to warrant them risking a backlash or a possible fine from the league or sponsors. Yes, most people consider athletes dumb jocks but let’s not quickly forget that some have gone from the basketball and football courts/fields to greater heights i.e. doctors, lawyers, and congressmen and their intelligence cannot and should not be confined to those arenas.
    If they have something to say and have determined that the cause is worth the risk, then like every American, they have every right to say it.

    • LMC says:

      Great post Horace, and I couldn’t agree more. Yes, there are contracts to follow, but these athletes can and should use their platform to be citizens and engage with their own community of followers. To the professor’s point, should they use their platform to do more (ie – with the president or with legislation), I wonder if there aren’t contingencies in their NBA contracts against such partnerships. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are. That being said, each person has to choose for himself how much he is comfortable getting involved. Would it be fantastic and powerful to see such athletes more involved in the legislation? No doubt. But do I respect each one’s decision to do as he sees fit? Of course.

      On the positive side, I recently saw that Kobe’s NGO is donating millions to allow students from his hometown with certain academic performances to attain college degrees. This may not be major national legislation, but it is certainly changing the face of entire communities by allowing their sons and daughters to go to college for free.

  30. Ambreshia says:

    I see your point. I never really even thought about it in that way. I feel as if they do have the power to influence and change the way a lot of their fans think. There are millions upon millions of people watching these young basketball stars and one informal message to go vote or take it upon yourself to obtain an education will encourage so many people. It will be a positive message not only for our youth but also for the adult generation that take part in watching these players. Not to say that these players are not trying to influence the people in a positive way because they are doing different things for their communities and charities but to add a message, just as they did with the shirts, to what they are doing will encourage and be of a positive message to so many Americans.

  31. gljackson33 says:

    I think NBA players have a lot of influence in the Urban areas. I think I was a great idea for players to stand up what they believe in. I think it is time for more celebrities to also stand up and take a stand on want they believe that is right. It is a very positive message that addresses what a lot of Black Americans encounter on an everyday basis. Blacks lives do matter and more and more people to need to take notice.

  32. Connor S says:

    I don’t think that they should just shut up and play. There is know limit to the influence that they would be able to have on society as a whole, especially because of how ingrained athletics has grown to be in today’s society. However, I do believe that there is a time and place for this to occur and that time is not in the warm-up pre-competition.

  33. Callen M says:

    I guess time heals all wounds as the Dixie Chicks have just announced a 40 city US and Canada tour that has gained national attention. Celebrities have one of the largest platforms to suggest change and influence people. Professional athletes specifically have the power to influence younger generations, Young children look up to them and and aspire to be like them when they grow up. They want to dress like them and often do and agree with the things they do and say. Promoting the right ideas and actions is important for them to remember.

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