Why the sports world takes stances on issues like gun control but not others

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Following the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two teachers dead, athletes and sports franchises were among those who demanded thoughts and prayers for those affected, but often went further, pushing the people in power to make the necessary changes to curb U.S. armed violence.

He the New York Yankees tweeted a long thread on the weapons, while the superstar players included the shooting guard Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers quarterback and Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes advocated measures to stop armed violence, and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr issued a viral plea in which he desperately asked his voice, “When are we going to do something?”

Dozens of other athletes and sports teams have reported on the Texas school shooting, which has led some to wonder why some social and political issues, more than others, are causing this public stance?

Martin Conway, a professor in Georgetown’s sports management program, told MarketWatch that franchisees and athletes, especially franchisees, are more likely to comment on “issues where there’s a little more consensus.”

“And if we look at national surveys on things like armed violence and ‘common sense’ weapons laws, background checks, etc., they’re almost overwhelming,” Conway said. “These [are] in the percentage of 70 or 80 more [range] when individuals are surveyed about it, so from an organizational perspective it’s a little easier to fall behind. ”

It therefore makes sense for fans to see comments from athletes or teams on issues that sound good, such as gun control or social justice, rather than some more complex issues or division.

Mental health awareness and suicide prevention also fall into the category of causes with a greater consensus, Conway noted, making advocacy in these areas less risky for image-conscious sports figures and organizations.

Following the tragedy at Robb d’Uvalde Elementary School in the NBA, as was the case two summers ago, when George Floyd’s death sparked a national outcry for racial justice and police reform, he has been the avant-garde. The Boston Celtics directly urged fans to call on members of the United States Senate to demand “common sense gun laws.”

“People are frankly looking for their organizations and their athletes to take a stand,” Conway said. “Some don’t want to see it, some say politics stays out of the sport, but I think more and more people are spending money on brands, including sports, looking for their brands and equipment and organizations to tell us where [they] they are, to take certain positions on things. “

According to an ESPN survey in 2021, 71% of sports fans support athletes talking about the causes that matter to them, but only 51% of fans said they support these messages during sporting events. , compared to 49% who said they would prefer defense efforts. place off the field or track. When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem and when NBA players wore Black Lives Matter and other statements adorned his shirts, a line was crossed, according to some observers.

As Kaepernick demonstrated, taking positions can have important ramifications for athletes, and more so in areas where understanding and consensus are not high.

For example, a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey backing Hong Kong protesters against China in 2019 created a massive problem for the NBA and its $ 5 billion business relationship with China, including television rights.

According to ESPN, NBA games in China, some of which were regularly broadcast on state television, were abruptly aired for three years. Game broadcasts have just resumed in China this May.

On the other side of the equation, Lakers star James was among those criticized for apparently coming to China’s defense. James, who has a lucrative support deal with world shoe giant Nike NKE,
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and a massive following in China, accused Morey of being “misinformed” about the ramifications of his tweet and “not being polite about the situation.”

James and the NBA were targeted by critics of Democratic and Republican senators alike, as well as some of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, for appearing more concerned with their financial interests than human rights. The US government has clearly denounced some abuses of Chinese human rights, in particular by calling genocide the actions taken against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.

Conway of Georgetown noted that athletes and sports organizations can expect to enjoy more public support when a more direct relationship between the messenger and the problem becomes apparent. An example: the treatment of blacks and members of other minority groups by law enforcement.

“Many NBA players talk about the fact that they have been stopped many times in their lives [by police officers] and they were asked about the cars they drive, different things like that, “Conway said.” They have a real, lived experience. “

73% of NBA players are black, according to Statista, and other sports leagues like the NFL and MLB are also very non-white.

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