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Xavier Smith: ‘Stick to sports’ doesn’t stick

Xavier Smith • Updated Sep 6, 2017 at 1:00 PM

thought athletes were supposed to stick to sports. At least, that has been the rhetoric in recent years as athletes and entertainers have spoken up for various social issues. 

Kneeling National Football League players, LeBron James and Meryl Streep were just a few of prominent athletes and entertainers who received some backlash for shining a light on issues they perceived as important. 

Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey fundraising efforts surpassed $20 million this week, which is phenomenal. Watt responded admirably to the tragedy that caused widespread devastation to the city he represents as a Texan. 

However, imagine if Watt had just “stuck to sports” as so many other athletes have been called to do. There would be $20 million less going to those affected by one of the worst natural disasters Texas has ever seen. 

I get it. Watt didn’t take a knee or sit during the national anthem, but that doesn’t change the fact he ventured outside the world that only exists between chalked lines to help people in need.

Watt also didn’t just donate $20 million of his own money to Harvey relief efforts. He called on others to donate, which led to $20 million for the cause. 

I don’t see a difference between Watt asking for donations after a natural disaster and Colin Kaepernick, Marshawn Lynch or other athletes not standing for the anthem and simply asking people to think there may be some injustices in this country. 

You could say Watt didn’t disrespect the flag while trying to raise awareness and funds for Harvey victims. That’s fair if you believe the players disrespected the flag, but what about Streep?

Streep had some choice words for then-President-elect Donald Trump during this year’s Golden Globes. She wasn’t displaying her social thoughts during a film, which is where she makes her money. 

In my opinion, it’s not fair to ask athletes or entertainers to just “stick to” their profession at any time, especially when their craft is the primary reason they have their power to influence. 

It appears we only want these prominent people to shy away from social issues when it pushes a button or doesn’t align with our own views, which is problematic. 

As I said before, there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing and there’s certainly nothing wrong with someone voicing their opinion, but if people stuck to what they were known for or their job, then Trump would not be president. He’s the walking epitome of not “sticking to sports.”

Once again, I think what Watt did is great and should be done more with athletes and entertainers in situations like Harvey. But, I also think we should embrace their call and actions for a better world when they don’t involve a natural disaster, because actions that have caused widespread protests happen far more than natural disasters and could be prevented. 

Xavier Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

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