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Should Professional Athletes Use Their Platforms to Engage in Discourse and Activism?

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| March 10, 2022

Professional athletes have a wide reach on their platforms, so we asked readers if they think those platforms should be used for discourse.

With so many professional athletes using their wide reach to advocate for or against different issues, we asked our readers an important question: Should professional athletes use their platforms to participate in social or political discourse?

Athletes hold a singular place in society as a particular type of celebrity, made to fame by a combination of talent, exposure and tireless effort. One of the unique aspects of this moment in history is social media and the opportunity it creates to narrow the communication gap between fans and respected athletes.

With such broad yet close reach, this places them in an open, vulnerable position if they choose to speak on issues outside of their profession.

Since March is all about sports, we asked our readers if they believed professional athletes should use their platform for this purpose. The majority of readers voted yes at 87%, while 13% of readers said no. Here are their nuanced answers.


The Scope of Responsibility

“With great power comes great responsibility.” This has been ringing true since long before Spider-Man, and anyone who has held any measure of power understands the weighty balance between power and responsibility.

While modern athletes aren’t superheroes, their reputation and influence carry a lot of weight, which is primarily why some of the most common answers we received centered around responsibility and obligation.

For those who argued in favor of athletes using their platform, they said there is an obligation for athletes to use their platform outside of their profession because they have the ability to bring awareness to important issues.

Along the same lines of responsibility, an opposing answer stated, “That’s not what their job is.”

This begs the question: Is it responsible to speak out because you have a following, or is it responsible to stay within the parameters of what you know?

I think we can agree that if you have a huge reach, you should tread with caution because you have a greater influence than the average person.

The Right to Speak

There is a fine balance between the First Amendment and Jonathan Van Ness’ “just because you Ameri-can doesn't mean you Ameri-should.”

Many of the answers from our readers dealt with having the right to speak on a subject.

“Why would being an athlete give you the right to opine on things they’re not an expert in?” asked one reader. Another reader posed an alternate opinion: “Everyone has a right to use their voice.”

What gives a person the right to speak on a subject? 

If being an expert on a given subject was a prerequisite for speaking out, there wouldn't be much discourse in the world. However, if those who hold more power were responsible with what they claimed, perhaps there would be fewer issues with disinformation.

Whether it’s a political statement or a call for activism, what makes athletes different from anyone else who is seeking to express themselves?

Before You Engage

When an athlete posts something wholesome or neutral, it’s typically well received, but when they post something that errs on the controversial side, the thread of comments is often both sides of the spectrum: even-bigger-supporter or no-longer-a-fan.

It can be shocking to see an athlete you support post something boldly political that differs from your own ideologies. You might consider commenting on the post or questioning whether or not you want to continue to root for this athlete, depending on the caliber of the comment.

Disagreement, as we all know, is so polarized that comments turn abusive and hateful.

We can do better.

Whether or not you believe an athlete’s platform should be utilized for issues outside of their expertise, there are a few things to keep in mind before you decide to engage:

  • Consider their experience with the subject. Are they an expert? Maybe not, but are you? If experts are the only ones allowed to voice their opinions, then perhaps we wouldn’t have as many opportunities to learn.
  • Everyone is entitled to their opinion, regardless of how wide their reach is. If you think someone is incorrect, start the conversation. 
  • Mind the rules of discourse. People don’t always fight fair online. Between trolls and messy logic, it’s up to you to decide when to walk away.

You won’t always agree with your favorite athlete, but if you only follow and engage with people you agree with, you risk trapping yourself into an echo chamber.



It’s far too easy to form an opinion of what another person should or shouldn't share. Discourse, on the other hand, isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary step in transforming how we relate to each other. You don’t have to engage in every conversation a professional athlete sparks on their platform, but it could also be a great tool to become more informed.

When you navigate difficult questions, you have the ability to uncover biases and have meaningful conversations. Do you enjoy the challenge of exploring difficult questions? Subscribe to The Doe’s blog to receive thought starters, like this one, delivered straight to your inbox.


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