June and early July have certainly had their fair share of "regular world meets sports world" moments. The case of Aaron Hernandez in Boston is the easiest example of an athlete acting stupid in a real world situation. The second and less obvious sports-related example happened Saturday night after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in suburban Orlando. You might be wondering the sports connection, so here they are, Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White made two tweets on his thoughts on the verdict: https://twitter.com/roddywhiteTV/status/356247239594749952
Neither is appropriate for anyone, but particularly for someone who represents the Atlanta Falcons and the National Football League.
Later in the same evening, Mike and Maurkice Pouncy posed with each other wearing hats that said 'Free Hernandez', in reference to Aaron Hernandez, who is currently in jail and is a former teammate of theirs from their time at the University of Florida.
As offensive and derogatory as these tweets and pictures are, all three certainly have the right to express their feelings about both subjects. None of the three, however, has the expectation of First Amendment protection, and I expect that if the league itself doesn’t fine or suspend, their respective teams will, regardless if the sanctions aren’t publicized.
I know this might be shocking, but these three people aren’t the only idiots who acted out this week. Search on Twitter and Facebook for other references, and you’ll see plenty of less famous people doing similar things.
I’m not here to defend these guys, but to remind you, and mostly myself, that these guys are real people as well as Americans and have the same rights to express themselves as you and I.
For the record, I don’t follow any of the three on Twitter or Facebook, but I generally don’t follow athletes because they have nothing interesting to say.
So, I’ll renew this question that I’ve asked many times before. Are we asking too much from our athletes? Would you go to any of these people for moral advice over your priest or rabbi? I wouldn’t.
Another question: are athletes not supposed to express their support or frustration for friends and family? I’ll guess that there a lot of people who are related to Hernandez that don’t believe he’s guilty, and I’ll guess there are plenty of athletes who are one side or the other about Zimmerman.
These athletes have the right to act stupid, and we certainly have the right to call them out about their opinions, but to suggest they need to keep their mouths shut and stick to sports is not only offensive, it’s inappropriate. Sports isn’t what makes most of us money, but we feel free to express our opinions on it, so why aren’t they allowed to speak about issues outside of sports?
What’s easier than telling them how stupid their remarks are? Easy, doing what you do when normal people say stupid things – don’t care.
Athletes have the right to be stupid, and we have the right to not care.