In today’s society, players have the ability to reach out to their fans in ways previously unimaginable in previous generations. Most athletes have millions of fans watching their every move on social media, and sports coverage is at an all-time high in the press. So when players speak on social issues, whether they are asked by a journalist or take the initiative themselves, it’s easy for their opinions to become a divisive topic for fans.
LeBron James was criticized by a Fox News anchor and told to “shut up and dribble”. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was famously blacklisted by teams because he kneeled for the National Anthem. Knowing all of this, Elgin Baylor still thinks it’s important for athletes to use their position in to make their positions known.
In a recent Q&A event with Yogi Roth presented by Thuzio, Elgin Baylor urged athletes to continue using their voices on social issues. Elgin Baylor famously sat out a game in Charleston in his rookie year because he was not allowed in a hotel with the rest of his team.
This all occurred in the segregation era in the United States, which isn’t very far removed from present-day society. Baylor didn’t have the kind of media coverage or direct engagement with fans that today’s players have, so his message was largely ignored at the time aside from those who were sympathetic with his plight.
Baylor is among several Lakers greats who have been active in voicing their opinions on social issues. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and many more have also joined various causes.
Elgin Baylor essentially put his life on the line for something he believed in, even though there wasn’t nearly as much exposure. NBA players like Lebron James and athletes, in general, have a lot they can learn from those that came before them, and it should be good for them to know that previous generations support the messages that they are conveying, and defending their right to express those opinions to the fans.