In 2016, there has been a revolt of sorts in which athletes seem more comfortable addressing issues beyond competition.
Athletes are rejecting the notion they are just entertainers. They have taken political and social stances. NBA players have refused to stay in hotels owned by Donald Trump; Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and others have taken a knee during the national anthem; and WNBA players have stood in solidarity against racial injustice and violence.
Their actions have sparked debate, and former Kings star Chris Webber wants to continue the dialogue with his new podcast “Fearless or Insane” on PodcastOne.com, with a new episode every Tuesday.
Webber intends to discuss sports and society on many levels, from the importance of protests to overbearing parents in the stands and the impact of LeBron James’ return on downtown Cleveland businesses.
Webber could just chat about basketball, but he wanted to go deeper.
“I think they’re just extensions of discussions I have at home with my family and friends,” Webber said. “I wanted to hear a different narrative, and I think everyone has a unique view … Hopefully it’s a show that’s thought-provoking. Hopefully it’s a show that’s entertaining, but I really just wanted to be informative, and I wanted to challenge our normal way of thinking.”
During his playing career, Webber met people who challenged him intellectually and gave him a different perspective on life. With the podcast, he can tap into his network of friends.
The podcast gives Webber a platform for meaningful conversation. He didn’t want topics such as gun violence and athletes reduced to sound bytes or quick clips of pundits yelling over each other. He also hoped to avoid skewing discussions solely toward his view.
Webber seeks an open exchange of ideas.
“I don’t have a dog in the race,” he said. “I just want to narrate a fair discussion because sometimes I think there’s an agenda already and you can control a discussion so easy. I do not want to do that. I just want to put out information, show people what I like and hopefully inspire conversation.”
Webber said he had been looking for a way to facilitate deeper discussions. After speaking with his friend Norm Pattiz, who founded PodcastOne and serves as executive chairman, the podcast became his vehicle.
Webber’s upbringing paved the way for his social awareness. He’s an avid reader whose parents taught him to think critically. Pictures of prominent African Americans such as Dr. Charles Drew were on the walls in his room.
Sports’ role in the struggle for civil rights also influenced Webber. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens and Joe Louis were symbols of athletic achievement and the fight for racial advancement.
In the NBA, Webber saw athletes work behind the scenes to improve neighborhoods, and he met academics and activists such as Dr. Harry Edwards.
Most importantly, Webber sees how sports can unify and educate people.
“I’ve heard so much about what the athlete’s role is in society and heard so much about how we didn’t have rights to speak or have an opinion,” he said. “But my personal upbringing refutes that, the way my parents raised me. So those who I admire refute that.”
Webber said athletes can express themselves through various means.
“I think that everyone can speak in their own way,” he said. “Most of it is about how you’re living your life, so I don’t think there’s any pressure on athletes to speak. I don’t think what I’m doing is earth-shattering.”
But it’s definitely important and worth a listen.
The ‘This Can’t Be Life’ Award
Phil Jackson can’t help himself.
His time running the New York Knicks finally appears to be trending upward. The Knicks have won eight of 11, and the playoffs could return to Madison Square Garden this season.
So what does Jackson gain from criticizing Carmelo Anthony on CBS Sports Network?
Said Jackson: “Carmelo a lot of times wants to hold the ball longer than ... we have a rule: If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop.”
Anthony said Jackson’s comments were a “black cloud” over a team that was playing well.
Anthony is right. If Jackson wants to criticize players, that’s fine. Just do it behind closed doors and keep the focus on the players and coaches who are making strides.
The ‘Keeping it Way Too Real’ Award
Marreese Speights said what nearly everyone in the NBA has for years: The Los Angeles Clippers need to shut up and just play. After their frequent underachievement in the postseason, folks are tired of their talk.
Speights now plays for the Clippers after three seasons with the Golden State Warriors.
“First we need to start really just leaving the refs alone,” Speights told The Orange County Register after the Warriors beat the Clippers for the seventh consecutive time “Guys just got to sacrifice, do some other things than scoring, do some other things than your personal goals. Just try something new.
“They’ve been doing it here for four or five years, and it hasn’t been working, so it’s time to try something new.”