Curtis Bolton, because he is something more than a Green Bay Packers linebacker, expressed himself over something bigger than football the other day.
“All the issues this country has and we tryna spend 4Bil on a wall and go to war,” Bolton, also a former Oklahoma linebacker, tweeted. “Smh (shake my head). Vote this man out and get somebody in office that’s gonna spearhead real change in this country.”
Several replies veered straight into politics, which was perfectly acceptable since Bolton’s tweet was political.
Numerous others supported Bolton’s right to speak out, even if they disagreed with him. This was even more encouraging given the disintegration of respect for other people and other people’s opinions anymore.
The “stick to sports” crowd is part of that disintegration.
These cave dwellers seize on the nastiness and anonymity of Twitter and Facebook, don’t like it when their sports heroes show themselves as free thinkers with different points of view and can’t reason past “stick to sports” in retaliation.
As predictable as mold in a musty basement, this crowd responded to Bolton, as well.
They called Bolton “bruh,” “buddy” and “cupcake.” They suggested he “stay in his lane” and “worry more about (his) game.” They figured he “must have had a few too many concussions.”
“Don’t get political!” tweeted @tailwatergolf. “Football is my escape from the real world!”
We all use football and sports as an outlet. Games help us forget about the tension, bitterness and hatred piling up around here and everywhere else. They are wonderful that way.
But shame on anyone who views athletes and coaches as one-dimensional, who is offended that they might have multi-dimensional viewpoints over the way the world ought to work or viewpoints that don’t fit the hero-worship narrative.
Bolton’s job is to play football, but it doesn’t define him. Why should his profession prevent him from speaking out?
Why should Mike Leach’s job as a college football coach prevent him from speaking out? Leach, then Washington State’s coach, endorsed Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign rally and caught “stick to sports” grief for it.
He caught grief from the opposite side of the aisle, sure as Bolton did. Sure as LeBron James did in the most infected case of this pustule, when the face of the NBA criticized Trump in a 2018 interview and Fox News personality Laura Ingraham ordered him to “shut up and dribble.”
It was code for Ingraham’s intolerance, a convenient method to try to muzzle a sports figure with a different point of view.
“Stick to sports” is always code. It is code for ignorance, since it fails to account for the fact that point guards, wide receivers and midfielders have a lot more in their heads than game plan semantics.
On social media it is code for hypocrisy. Facebookers and Twitter-azi imploring players and coaches to stay in their lanes swerve wildly out of their own to do so. They are lawyers, welders, farmers and accountants quicker to splash their own beliefs across the internet than the sports figures they scold.
They are too small-minded and short-sighted to appreciate that athletes and coaches, like all of us, exist beyond their jobs.
Last Thursday night I stopped wondering whether Chuba Hubbard might return to Oklahoma State, closed my laptop and attended one of the town hall meetings concerning Tulsa’s next Chief of Police.
I listened for two hours as citizens shared experiences in this city far different than mine and far more alarming. Now I worry about something more important than whether Hubbard runs for the Cowboys next season.
My job hinges on sports, my escape typically involves sports and yet that doesn’t keep me from venturing into current events that are far more important. We all have jobs, outlets and an awareness of topics that are more social, political and meaningful, regardless of whether we tweet our thoughts.
Bolton, Leach and LeBron are no different. Why should they be treated dismissively when they choose to express themselves? Why should they stick to sports?
There is a lot of nerve in the crowd that commands them to do just that, a lot of fools.