An athlete’s expression of core values

I’m not much of a football fan but I do know something about an athlete’s expression of core values. In fact, I’ve committed a big part of my life to support the freedom of expression of others with different views than ours. It started with my own story of self-expression at sports competitions.

While I have no specific information on this NFL controversy about Colin Kaepernick currently in the news, I know that many of our ancestors have suffered to defend this player’s current right to express himself in whatever peaceful manner he chooses. I believe, as this player likely also does, that one person’s act of civil disobedience can make a difference. It embarrasses and scares me that some people say that he doesn’t have a right to express his views. I have reason to believe that most successful coaches and sports managers understand this; certainly our nation’s highest courts do. Of course, this player will live by the consequences of his actions, however unpopular they may be, just as I live with the consequences of judgement by those with less tolerant minds.

If a player violates workplace policy then he should be dealt with individually by his employer as a workplace issue. This is a private commercial contract; it’s not my business or yours. When I competed in national and international competitions I sometimes wore non-sanctioned clothing as a personal statement and was disciplined for it. No big deal. I  recall being criticized for my T-shirts and other protests of the Vietnam war as early as age 11. I refused to place my hand over my heart and pledge allegiance to the flag (I just stood quietly). I learned to deal with the criticism and now I’m more confident in the ability to express myself.

I don’t see much evidence that successful athletes are likely to curb their self-expression of core social values based on the normative wishes of fans, employers, coaches or even sanctions. In fact, we have a whole genre of sports movies and legends depicting the opposite. I know that the successful athletes I was privileged to coach wouldn’t give a darn what the Olympic committee said about expression of religious or political views, for example. If anything, the current outrage just fuels his passion. Remember the Chariots of Fire story?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *