An Athlete’s Political Stance Does Not Diminish Their Legacy

In 1984, Muhammad Ali publicly endorsed Ronald Reagan, a man who was blatantly racist towards people of color in both speech and policy. 1968 saw Wilt Chamberlain publicly endorsed Richard Nixon, a blatant racist who was impeached for his involvement in the Watergate scandal and also started the racially driven war on drugs.

In 2004, 24 athletes including John Elway, Karl Malone, and Roger Staubach wrote and signed a letter together to endorse George W. Bush, a man who lied to Americans in order to get involved in the Iraq war, a conflict that was mostly xenophobic in nature that would cost the lives of countless Americans and civilians alike.

Outside of public declarations of support, there are also plenty of photographs of Joe Montana laughing and enjoying the presence of Ronald Reagan, or Michael Jordan or Lebron James or Kobe Bryant being close with Bill Clinton (a man who was impeached by Congress and has been believably and legitimately accused of sexual harassment or worse by a large number of women).

We never question the legacy of the above players and regard many of them as the greatest to ever play their respective sports. Despite the fact that they publicly supported racists, war criminals, and predators.

However, the moment one of these athletes were to come out in support of current president, Donald Trump, their legacy would immediately come into question.

Here is an Esquire article that, while claiming to be about the hypocrisy of all Republicans, is really just primarily a collection of tweets attacking the recent wave of athlete endorsements of Trump.

Here is a Yahoo Sports article that was not only published, but also pushed out as a push notification to Yahoo Sports users who have notifications enabled, that claims the legacies of players supporting Trump has been put at risk.

These are not some small pundits making manipulative headlines to get clicks either, these are titans in the industry of journalism coming for athletes with legitimate legacies (save Jay Cutler) based on their political affiliations.

Why does it suddenly become okay to attack, question, and discredit the legacy of an athlete if they support Donald Trump but not due to past affiliations with war criminals, predators, and racists?

The reality is that, outside of politicians, not a single person on Earth’s impact on the world has anything to do with their political affiliations.

We would never hold non-athletes to the same standard where we discredit them based on their political ideology. Your plumbers’ ability to fix your plumbing has nothing to do with whether they support Biden or Trump, your bartenders’ ability to mix a delicious whiskey sour is not diminished if they are voting for red or blue, and your insurance agent will sell you the same insurance products even if they are voting for Kanye West.

Lebron James is not a great basketball player because he is an active Democrat, but instead because he is a strong leader who brings out the best in the players around him and is willing to match the output of four elite players if the team needs it.

Muhammad Ali does not suddenly become any less the greatest man to lace up the gloves because he was a Republican, but is instead forever going to remembered as maybe the most dominant force to ever compete in a combat sport.

In the same way, the athletes with connections to dastardly men who have held the office of the presidency do not have their legacies diminished either. A Biden or Clinton does not add points or wins to a legacy while an endorsement of Trump does not add any losses to your legacy, and vice versa.

It is short-sighted, problematic, and hypocritical to act like because they came out in support of Donald Trump, athletes like Jorge Masvidal, Brett Favre, Arnold Palmer, Conor Mcgregor, Ed Orgeron, or Mike Ditka have their influences on their respective sports completely removed.

It also sets up a dangerous precedent that punishes players who have the courage and come out in support of politicians they believe in, because the instance they do, they become unpopular with the Internet crowds. This could scare athletes from having public opinions on politics at all, which is exactly the thing that this summer of sports was spent avoiding.

Hopefully, as election day passes and 2020 finishes torturing us to the brink of insanity, we can start to move past our hateful and hypocritical partisanship. Remember that who you vote for does not change or affect the type of person that you are and does not affect your legacy.