“Your favorite athlete stands on his platform to be seen. I stand on my platform to shout, to be heard,” Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots tight end, tweeted about using his fame to comment on political and social issues.
After his team won the 2017 Super Bowl, Bennett said he would skip the team’s ceremonial visit to the White House in protest of President Donald Trump. Five other members of the Patriots have also said they will not attend the championship team’s meeting with the president, according to The New York Times.
Several Clark athletes and coaches weighed in on whether or not athletes should reject the White House invitation because of political reasons. They also share
their perspectives on prominent athletes who use their popularity as a platform for activism.
“There’s a double standard: when athletes do something, they’re criticized, and when they don’t do something they’re criticized,” men’s baseball player Charles Clark Jr said.
Clark said athletes are citizens and should speak out on issues that matter to them. He said he is active in the protests against racism and inequality sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Like Kaepernick, Clark chooses not to stand for the national anthem.
Clark said he was told he must stand for the national anthem by Mark Magdaleno, head coach of Clark’s men’s baseball team. Magdaleno told the team they can stand up for their beliefs, but need to do so on their own time.
“That’s fair — it’s his team and I have to respect that. At the same time he’s not saying I can’t have those views,” Clark said.
Clark said he still takes a knee at any other time he hears the national anthem played.
While Clark would not visit a Trump White House, teammate Grant Fisher said he would accept the invitation out of respect and gratitude, regardless of who the president was.
“One of the hardest things to do in sports is to win a championship, and you should set aside your politics,” Fisher said.
But women’s softball player and team co-captain, Sarah Hoechlin said politics would be the main criteria in her decision.
Hoechlin said Trump’s comments toward women during his campaign last year crossed the line. She said the 2005 Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump boasted about kissing and grabbing women “by their pussies,” was a dealbreaker.
Teammate and co-captain, Jazymyn Nedzwecky said she is not political herself and would turn down the offer due to the political implications accepting it might have, particularly with other women.
While the captains of the softball team agree on this issue, but Clark men’s basketball players Michael Hill Jr and Surmon Neal have more diverse opinions.
Hill said he would skip the visit, but finalizing that decision would be complicated because of how divided the country is.
Hill is a biracial male, and said he would not feel welcome in a Trump White House. The center said his experience being racially profiled in a Los Angeles suburb and having students of color receive death threats were reasons he would feel uncomfortable attending.
Hill’s teammate Neal said that as an African American, he would go to find out if the president really cares about people of color.
“I’d go just to see who he is as a person and get a feel; it’s easy to say something about somebody or feel a way toward someone without meeting them,” Neal said.