Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Athletes should be more expressive, but also informed

This has been an interesting week when it comes to athletes and social opinions. The killing of Osama Bin Laden sparked celebration from many Americans and reactions from certain athletes who have offered their thoughts on the landmark news and the aftermath.

Two athletes -- the Milwaukee Bucks' Chris Douglas-Roberts (pictured right) and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall -- were chided for their Twitter comments, although they were different. Douglas-Roberts, an astute person who has quite a Twitter following, pondered the celebration of someone's death, especially since Afghans and others in the Middle East were celebrating the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Mendenhall went a little further to not only criticize the celebration but suggesting that we didn't know Bin Laden and knew only "one side of the story."

Douglas-Roberts explained his comments to ESPN and the New York Daily News while Mendendall released a blog explaining his stance, which was misguided at best.

The positive in this situation is that athletes, even the younger ones, are beginning to speak out and notice the world around them besides material goods, women and music. The negative is that sometimes athletes, especially those who don't follow news closely, can give misinformed opinions and therefore face great criticism.

We have seen a generation of athletes pass on having any political opinions that may affect sneaker sales or their marketing image. Athletes who could have great influence on the thinking and the education of their fans have passed for fear making any waves, although some of those won't hesitate to drive while drinking or get caught with marijuana. It's about time our athletes stop being so concerned about their image, but by using the forum of Twitter or blogs comes the responsibility of being educated on the subjects you choose to broach.

That's the challenge for athletes, to enlighten themselves on issues outside of sports. We ask our athletes to be more well rounded, make a statement, offer a thought on their community and when they do, we tend to criticize them because of that opinion. As long as that opinion is concise, knowledgeable and sincere, we can't criticize the effort. We can only choose to agree or disagree.

That is the American way.