It’s no secret that our country is more divided now – politically – than it has been in decades. It’s also no secret that most people do not want to hear about your political beliefs, be it on social media or in person.
The controversial presidency of Donald Trump has created two overwhelming groups of people: those who sit firmly with him as president, and those who vehemently oppose him. There is little-to-no middle ground in-between, and it’s not always easy to determine which side of the fence people are on.
Some openly voice their support (or objection) to Trump’s presidency, while others keep quiet in regards to their political views. While voicing your opinion is fully protected under the first amendment, it also comes with risks.
It can change the way people view you, and it can change the way people treat you. Most would agree that the best course of action for everyone would be to shut up and keep their opinions to themselves.
As a longtime sports reporter – who was legally prohibited from discussing politics on social media under company rules – who has left the profession and is no longer bound by such restrictions, I have started voicing some of my political opinions online. In the three months since leaving my previous job, it has become clear that people would prefer that I “stick to sports” and stay out of discussing politics.
But, it’s not that simple.
For one, I am a taxpaying citizen of this country and have the right to voice my displeasure with the people who run it – mainly, the President of the United States. And just because I’ve been a sports reporter for most of my career, that doesn’t mean I’ve never had these feelings.
I’m more than a sports reporter, the same way LeBron James is more than a basketball player and Clint Eastwood is more than an actor. You cannot complain about non-political figures talking politics because they don’t share your beliefs, but be perfectly fine with it if they do agree. It goes both ways.
You can disagree with my political beliefs and you can choose not read my thoughts on the topic at all, but please do not ask me to keep my mouth shut and just stick to sports.
We can have conflicting political views and still keep a mutual respect for one another. Some of my closest family members have vastly different political views than I do, but it does not make me love them any less.
If they want to have the conversation, I’ll defend my beliefs to best of my ability and present evidence supporting my case if it is readily available. When the conversation is over, I will still love them all the same. If they have different feelings about me afterwards, that is something I cannot control.
With less than a year until the next presidential election, I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up a few things.
I am not turning my social media accounts into a full-time fact-checking machine. I do not have the time, energy, knowledge, resources or desire to embark on such a task.
But that does not mean I will not occasionally share a fact-based article that may contradict the president. It does not mean I will not occasionally jump into your comments section to correct you for sharing or posting something that is racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and/or flat-out false.
You do not get to be part of the base that made, “Fake news!” a rally cry of the president’s campaign and then complain when someone calls you out for spreading the very fake news you claim to detest.
As someone who spent nearly a decade of his professional career in journalism fighting to make sure his work was reported accurately and fairly, it is insulting to hear the press called the “enemy of the people” by anyone. To hear those words uttered from the most powerful person in the country is both disgusting and an embarrassment to our nation. Nothing you say will change those feelings for me.
But I digress.
The current political climate is tense and uncomfortable, but that is all the more reason to speak up.
I’ve never understood why people say to not discuss marriage, children or politics in the beginning stages of dating because those are major items in most relationships. What good is falling for someone only to find out you want to get married one day and they never do? What good is falling for someone only to find out they want kids and you never do? What good is falling for someone only to find out you oppose every single one of their political views?
These are all important conversations and they are all worth having. Perhaps there is compromise somewhere, or perhaps one (or more) of the aforementioned topics is not a big deal to you. However things play out, there must be a conversation at some point. Why not have it sooner than later?
I get that politics has always been a taboo topic, and one that most people would rather avoid discussing, but it is a conversation that people need to have now more than ever.