Athletes are entitled to their own opinion
By: Sean E. Thomas
Dexter Fowler, an American citizen who is married to Darya Aliya Baghbani, an American immigrant born in Iran, has spoken out against President Trump’s travel ban. This ban restricted travel to and from seven predominantly Muslim countries, one of which is Iran.
Fowler was asked by a reporter at ESPN what his thoughts were on Trump’s travel ban. His response was respectful, brought attention to his concerns for his family and their well-being and has made him the target of criticism from his fellow American citizens.“It’s huge. Especially any time you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate,” Fowler said. That is all.
Fowler was referencing the fact that due to Trump’s travel ban he and his wife wouldn’t be able to take their daughter, Naya, to visit his wife’s family still living in Iran. He has also pointed out that his wife’s sister was forced to postpone her return trip from Qatar to the U.S. for fear of being detained.
The criticisms of Fowler, as posted on Twitter, go something like this: “Dexter you better close your mouth. Go Mr. President,” “You should keep your mouth shut and just play baseball,” and “Yeah, my ticket [money] doesn’t pay for his politics. Ok, so it’s hard for his wife [actually sister-in-law] to enter the country. Not our problem, it’s unfortunate, but if he runs his mouth better than he plays baseball, life won’t be so great for him.”
Oh, did I forget to mention Dexter Fowler is a baseball player who recently signed an $82.5 million-dollar contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, after helping the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series win in over 100 years in 2016? That’s because, as far as I’m concerned, he is a person and citizen of this country before, during, and after he is a ball player. That his wife, child, and loved ones should be afforded the same rights and freedoms that we all are.
Most of the backlash from fans concerning Fowler’s comments have been centered around the idea that, because he is a professional athlete, he should keep his political opinions to himself.
In a country where fewer and fewer of us seem to be paying attention to the news, or at least thinking critically about it, I argue that without the involvement of athletes and entertainers in politics, many of us would miss how much trouble our country is actually in.
Like Tommie Smith and John Carlos who took to the podium to receive their Olympic medals in 1968, black gloved fists raised defiantly overhead. Muhammed Ali, who gave up his title as champion and was banned from boxing, many say during his prime, after refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. More recently, Colin Kaepernick who refused to stand during the singing of the national anthem to bring extra attention to the disproportionate killing, in the United States, of black men by police.
Fowler is the next in a long line of amazing human beings, some athletes, who by doing or saying what they thought was right became champions for social justice.
“I gave nothing away,” Fowler told ESPN on Monday, Feb. 20. “I’m always going to care for my family, and if a question is asked out of concern, I’m going to answer the question truthfully. It’s not to hurt anybody. It’s my perspective. It’s unfortunate that people think of things that way, but I believe they’re sensitive. I’m not the sensitive one.”
Although there may be some fans of baseball out there who take issue with Fowler’s comments, I’m taking this opportunity to speak for all fans of humanity out there in saying this; thank you Dexter Fowler for saying what you feel, standing by those statements, and being a champion for the marginalized and mistreated in a game where rules once held sacred, continue to be rewritten.