Paolino’s Picks: To What Extent Should Professional Athletes Speak Out?


Erik Drost/Wikipedia

Nets guard Kyrie Irving’s comments earlier this month on social media were met with a five-game suspension.

Richie Paolino, Sports Reporter

WOODBURY — Muhammad Ali, Kyrie Irving, Naomi Osaka, Carl Lewis. All of these people are professional athletes who have sent messages on social issues through their respective platforms of sports. Every athlete is protected by the First Amendment if they wanted to speak out, but more of the question is should they?

“It’s important for them to recognize the platform that athletes have, and the number of people they reach when they decide to speak out,” said Woodbury Middle School teacher Adam Brutting. “When they do speak out, they should know the impact on the people that could hear, especially younger children. They just have to be aware and think about what they are putting out.”

Athletes speaking out has been a topic of discussion as of late. Irving, a point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, was suspended for five games by the team because of what he was publishing on social media. 

Irving posted a link to a contentious Amazon film named “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” This received immediate backlash, resulting in the Nets suspending Irving and Nike suspending their partnership with him.

Irving sharing his thoughts on controversial topics is allowed, as many athletes are speaking out all the time, but the public is still ambivalent whether his five-game suspension was justified.

Ben Guerette of the English Department understands the platform athletes have to speak about issues most important to them. (Richie Paolino)

“I think it was a good decision,” said Nonnewaug English teacher Benjamin Guerette. “I liked that it showed that actions have consequences. These NBA players are leaders and people look up to them.”

Kyrie apologized for his actions on Instagram, stating, “To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize, I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary.”

Irving’s comments come at a time when the Nets are underperforming, considering they’re missing their facilitator and leader. Prolonged absences like Irving’s are a distraction, but they also pull attention away from the fan experience for those who wish to see their favorite athletes perform at high levels.

“A lot of people just want to relax and enjoy a sporting event,” said Nonnewaug senior John Paul Cuccia. “Sports are distractions for people who want to get away from anything bad going on in their lives.”