Op-Ed: Celebrity opinions matter

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 6:09pm

These days, it seems everybody has something to say. People of all political affiliations are bound to feel wound up and passionate about recent events. It’s better that our citizens stay engaged than become complacent; people who actively involve themselves in politics are looking out for the country’s best interests. Furthermore, some of the United States’ biggest critics are also its biggest patriots, exercising the First Amendment rights our Founding Fathers fought so hard for. As uncomfortable as it can be, challenging the status quo is the only way progress happens. Controversy gets important conversations started. 

It baffles me that some people call protests such as kneeling during the anthem “un-American.” Quite frankly, what is more American than a non-disruptive act of defiance? Many sports players do this to protest police brutality and racial resentment that have been crippling the country for some time now.

And yet, people implore football players to stick to the sport next time. People label these players as ungrateful for criticizing the country that allowed them to reach such heights in the NFL. Both of these arguments not only silence these football players but delegitimize them as human beings. These football players are more than just your Sunday afternoon entertainment. They have lives outside their profession and have voices that deserve to be heard just as loud as everybody else’s. Their success does not blind them to the pertinent issues of today.

The same can be said for all celebrity activists. Take a look at the 2017 Emmys: Celebrities ranging from Alec Baldwin to Donald Glover to Jane Fonda all took shots at the Trump administration throughout the show. This politicization of the Emmys remained a topic of debate all throughout the next day; many conservative television personalities expressed their disgust with the Emmys and disclosed plans to not watch them next year.

ESPN host Jemele Hill received calls — some directly from White House officials — for her to be fired after she posted a series of anti-Trump tweets. It would be one thing if Hill’s criticisms were said on air amidst a sports segment. But why shouldn’t she be able to express her own opinions on her own personal Twitter account? Should working in the sports industry limit her to talking about sports only?

Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel also veers away from his comedic content to get political from time to time. On Oct. 1, tens of thousands of people gathered in Las Vegas to watch country star Jason Aldean perform. Yet, 59 lives were cut short and over 500 people were injured in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Kimmel delivered an emotional and passionate plea against such senseless acts on his show the following day, and people were mad at him for not sticking to comedy? Comedy is derived from current events, but sometimes the current events transcend the realm of comedy and must be talked about in a serious manner. Kimmel’s show gives him the perfect platform to discuss these issues, and it would be foolish for anyone to not take advantage of this.

Some people claim celebrities shouldn’t try to speak on behalf of the “ordinary folk,” given the extent of their privilege. The way I see it, whoever has privilege has the responsibility to use that power to help those who are less privileged. This is exactly what these celebrities are doing.

I don’t have sympathy for those who find the politicization of NFL games, award shows, comedy shows, etc. unwatchable. We do not have a monopoly on the content of such programs. We all have family and friends who post political rants on Facebook and with whom we often disagree, yet we are able to look past this disparity and carry on.

So why can’t we do the same with celebrities?

Nicole Kardas is an LSA sophomore.