I'll start off by saying here that I am not one of the people who believes that athletes should "shut up and play." I don't think athletes' opinions are entitled to any more weight than the average Joe's opinions, but if you've got a platform, you've got the First Amendment right to use it. As a grown adult, I can take the average athlete's opinions on, say, climate change with a healthy grain of salt and move on with my life.
Here's what really chaps my backside, though: When players tell FANS to shut up when fans are voicing their opinion about the product they paid to see. Via ESPN, a bunch of Baltimore Ravens players lashed out at fans who mercilessly booed rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson on Sunday. In case you missed it, Jackson had a very horrible game; at one point in the second half he was 3-for-10 passing with 25 yards for a zero quarterback rating. He also fumbled three times and threw a pick.
Now the Ravens have on the sideline a guy named Joe Flacco who is getting paid tens of millions of dollars a year to ride the bench behind Lamar Jackson. Sure, Flacco is a long way removed from being the guy who led the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XLVII, but when you're a fan and you see your quarterback with 25 passing yards in the third quarter, you start to wonder if maybe this Flacco guy is really so bad after all.
So Ravens fans started letting the team have it, booing the offense mercilessly every time they came on the field and chanting "Flacco! Flacco! Flacco!"
As it turned out, Jackson had a hell of a fourth quarter and pulled the Ravens close. Maybe the boos motivated him. Who knows?
What I do know is that regular season tickets for the Baltimore Ravens averaged $115 apiece this year. I'm sure playoff tickets were about twice that. The fact that fans paid hundreds of bucks to park their butts in the seats doesn't give them free license to do ANYTHING, but it certainly gives them the right to voice their displeasure when their team is putting on a putrid on-field display.
Ravens Offensive Lineman Ronnie Stanley was quoted after the game, "We love our fans and everything they've done for us, but there are going to be good times and there are going to be bad times, and we expect your support in all of those times. If you're not going to support us, then you've really got to question yourself on that one."
I don't begrudge NFL players their large salaries. They are earning what the market will support and I'm fine with that. But the REASON these players get these salaries is at least in part based on the fact that people plunk down a significant chunk of their hard earned money to come to football games. And when a team's performance makes them unhappy enough, then fans are entitled to boo.
And if you, as an athlete, are turning in a performance so horrible that your own fans are booing you, then maybe you should question yourself on that one, instead of questioning the fans who are doing the booing. You don't get to expect the support of people who paid a lot of money to watch you in person when your performance stinks.
If people paid a lot of money to come to a play on Broadway and the performers showed up drunk and forgot their lines, the audience would boo. Probably, they would get a refund. If you can't handle being booed by fans when you don't perform, then find another line of work that isn't pro sports.
There's only one group of people who's entitled to my support — through good and bad — with hundreds and hundreds of my dollars. That's my children. Anybody else has to work to get my money, and I imagine Baltimore Ravens fans feel exactly the same. And they are justified to do so.