SBD/Issue 111/Sports & Society

Many Athletes Choosing To Remain Quiet On Political Issues

Baston Says Athletes Don't Want
To Alienate Fans With Politics
A political cartoon published February 18 in the N.Y. Post "created a firestorm of protests by some critics who said" it made reference to President Obama, but there has been "no public reaction from NBA players, many of whom were visible and vocal during the presidential campaign," according to William Rhoden of the N.Y. TIMES. Pacers F Maceo Baston said that athletes "don't want to do or say anything that may alienate fans." Although the NBA is "predominately African-American, the fans are not." Baston: "You're a spokesman for the city. You have fans of all races and all ages. You have to be careful." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter yesterday said that the union "would not issue a formal statement because he had not had a chance to poll team representatives." Hunter: "Unfortunately, I cannot have the union endorse political issues based on my beliefs, and the vast majority of players do not expect me to put the union's label behind their individual stands either." Baston said, "You're aware, but you really can't go there because of different endorsements or just your job. It's a kind of funny area that you might be playing with, especially during the season." Baston added, "In sports, you can't wear anything on your uniform to represent anything -- it's against league rules. Artists and rappers have more freedom of speech." But Rhoden writes, "No. They simply exercise their right to free speech" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/26).

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