Athletes occupy a weird space in public life. As famous people, they're often expected to chime in on certain matters to give greater publicity to a particular issue. When they make controversial statements about those same issues, though, they're often made out to be uninformed jerkwads who'd be better off keeping their mouths shut and performing for our enjoyment. Do we want them to be socially active or not?
Sunday night, as you may have heard, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. While most people celebrated (or at least acted pleased) by the news, one NBA player did not. Here's what Bucks swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts had to say on Twitter:
Is this a celebration?? ... Always read the fine print. ... It took 919,967 deaths to kill that one guy. It took 10 years & 2 Wars to kill that...guy. It cost us (USA) roughly $1,188,263,000,000 to kill that...........guy. But we #winning though. Haaaa. (Sarcasm) ... People are telling me to get out of America now b/c I'm against MORE INNOCENT people dying everyday? B/c I'm against a 10 year WAR? ... What I'm sayin has nothing to do with 9/11 or that guy. I still feel bad for the 9/11 families but I feel EQUALLY bad for the war families. ... What I've learned tonight, athletes shouldn't have perspectives. But I don't care. We feel certain ways about things TOO.
There are more tweets at CDR's account via the link above, including several responses to "fans" who didn't exactly take too kindly to his comments.
These remarks were outliers, to be sure -- for the most part, athletes expressed a measure of happiness at the results and remembered the victims of 9/11 and the members of the military who have sacrificed for close to a decade. Yet there's no mistaking that this was CDR's honest reaction to the news, not a put-on or attempt to create controversy for its own sake. I've read Douglas-Roberts' Twitter for nearly two years now, and he has always stood out as the most unfiltered NBA player on the service. He doesn't hold back any opinions, whether they deal with political issues or his own playing time. He tells his followers what's on his mind, no matter the subject.
What he's learned, though, is that most people only want to hear an athlete's opinion on a social issue if it coincides with their own interests. CDR caused a stir Sunday night because his opinion was controversial, not because he was being especially pigheaded. (As Andrew Sharp notes at SB Nation, he was probably looking at things more critically than most.) Criticize the specifics of his arguments, if you want. But his willingness to speak out and level of engagement should be applauded. Most athletes only say what they think people want to hear. That CDR is interested enough in the issue to have a relatively nuanced opinion is worth our admiration.