Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova

"Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you're afraid to give us your position on fracking!"

“Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you’re afraid to give us your position on fracking!”

“So many athletes are afraid to use their platform to do the right thing and speak what they feel, and that’s very depressing.”

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to approving New York Times sports reporter Juliet Macur, as the former tennis great prepared for her keynote speech at a human rights event at the Department of State.

Wrong, Martina. There is no “platform.” You earned credibility and influence regarding social and political issues by intelligently and boldly standing up for your own rights and privileges, on issues that affected you directly and about which you had an important perspective and a legitimate reason to speak out. Female athletes. Discrimination. Gay rights. Feminism. You had credentials and authority in all of those areas, and using your status as a sports star to spark intelligent debate was responsible and fair.

Once you had established your credibility, analytical abilities and skill at articulating issues while taking informed positions on them, then you had earned added legitimacy separate from your athletic prowess and stardom. You’re a smart person: smart people’s informed opinions should be listened to and considered no matter what the topic. Many other athletes have expanded their legitimate authority and influence this way. Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Ted Williams. Billy Jean King. Bill Bradley.

Athletic stardom, however, confers no more assumed expertise regarding issues unrelated to sports than being a paper-hanger or a busboy. The difference is that famous athletes, like famous singers and actors, are admired and idolized by many people, especially among the young, who are incapable of resisting the siren influence of their heroes. There is nothing good about this, and everything wrong about it. Tom Brady supports Donald Trump, and the only reasonable reaction to that is to conclude that Tim Brady is a moron. However, that’s not how blank-slate sports fans react to his endorsement. For too many of them, the sequence is pure cognitive dissonance:

1. I love Tom Brady, who is a great quarterback.

2. Tom Brady says that Donald Trump is the berries.

3. I don’t understand politics and have no time for it, but I understand football.

4. In football, I trust Tom Brady.

5. If Tom Brady likes Donald Trump, that’s good enough for me.

6. I support Donald Trump.

Nobody should care who Tom Brady supports for President. It is irrelevant. Nobody should care what the Dixie Chicks think about foreign policy, or what Kate Upton thinks about global warming. None of these people—great at football, terrific performers, va-va-voom!—have any relevant credentials on these topics whatsoever, and are abusing their fame, position and influence by shouting through an outsized megaphone.

What Martina Navratilova is saying is even worse. She is saying that just because a pro athlete can, he or she is doing the “right thing” by shooting off their ill-informed, under-educated, unjustly admired mouths in public, on the field, or someplace else. She is saying that simply because these individuals have athletic talent, that alone is sufficient justification to inflict their half-baked political and social views on important debates, influencing the weak-minded and warping public opinion. Indeed, she said, they should, and when they don’t, it depresses her.

Wrong. Terribly wrong.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as could have been predicted, just apologized for her statement calling Colin Kaepernick’s stupid protest against the National Anthem “stupid.” She was 100% correct in that assessment, but Supreme Court Justices are not on the court to pass down gratuitous judgments, however deserved, on ordinary citizens. She abused her position, just as President Obama abused his by professing his admiration of Kaepernick’s stunt.

The 49ers quarterback in question, however, is also abusing  his position, not doing “the right thing.” His public statements show that his comprehension of the complex issues his “protest” involves exist on an infantile level. He has been unable to add anything of substance or illumination, yet he has spawned disciples and imitators in the NFL, on college teams, and even in high schools, by people who are relying on his imaginary authority. How is that “right”? How is that helpful? All it does is make intelligent discourse more difficult.

Because of her own bias toward athletes, Martina Navratilova is, incredibly, saying that the ability to serve an ace or throw a pass ( and, presumably, to sing a ditty or dance a jig) is enough to justify an individual disproportionately influencing public opinion on topics where they have no real insight whatsoever–in short, the right to make the public dumber.

Well, Martina, the fact that you think that’s a rational position just eliminated any reason I might have had to care what you think about anything else.

19 Comments

Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Leadership, Sports, U.S. Society

19 responses to “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova

  1. JutGory

    I am sure Martina is very happy to see that some goofball Reality TV star has used his platform to express his views about what would Make America Great Again.

    Because Trump’s candidacy is the logical conclusion to her viewpoint. See also Governor Ventura, Senator Franken, Governor Schwartzenegger, Congressman Bono, and Senator Clinton.

    -Jut

    • Well put! Excellent. Celebrities can rationalize their own uncredentialed arrogance. Martina did nothing but play tennis from her pre-teen years to retirement. Her expertise consists of her own experiences. But she’s an athlete, she believes in her own authority, so, naturally, other athletes are qualified to tell us what’s good policy too.

    • “Because Trump’s candidacy is the logical conclusion to her viewpoint. See also Governor Ventura, Senator Franken, Governor Schwartzenegger, Congressman Bono, and First Lady Clinton.”

      There fixed that. 😉

    • JutGory… actually by almost all measures, Sonny Bono was a well liked and respected congressman who got the job done. Mixed reviews about Mary though…

      • JutGory

        Fair points. I debated about throwing in Sonny. He was a celebrity, but he seemed sincere. Who is the biggest one of those of all? Ronald Reagan. I could have thrown Steve Largent in there, or Cooter from Dukes of Hazzard who won in Louisiana. Though, both of them were serious candidates. In all fairness, I paused about mentioning Bono And I paused about naming Clinton.
        Your point is well taken, but vigilance requires scrutiny of any celebrity who poses as a political leader.
        -Jut

  2. Once again Jack you have expertly touched the proverbial “nerve” of our woefully inadequate public intellectual integrity! NIce job! Jim Grieme

  3. Chris Marschner

    Jack, Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

    It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think.

    Conceptually, the more friends you have the more socially desirable you are. Everything associated with the desirable one is deemed good until that person is turned out of favor by another. Adherence to the principal’s POV is a must or one can be turned out of the fold. One of the early methods of cyber bullying was to start a defriending campaign against a member of the group that the person with the most friends determined needed to be shunned. This was prevalent among young girls. That method escalated to much more grievous methods some of which were so emotionally debilitating that some committed suicide. Not peep from Martina when that was happening.

    Twitter should have been called Twaddle because much of what is communicate is half baked ideas and half truths that do not warrant a great deal of attention. Few things of importance can be communicated in only 140 characters. Messages about Jasper, Dana Perino’s dog, may be fine within her family but who the hell should really care about what Jasper did today? How many people re-tweeted such drivel simply because they have an affinity for a press secretary who took over for Tony Snow in the Bush administration. Nothing more than self promotion for Ms. Perino.

    However, when the twaddle is repeated enough it’s “trending” which is a term designed to suggest this is very important. All it really means is that someone made a remark that many repeated. Here is the rub, for you as a twitter user, to demonstrate your influence you must get followers and you cannot get followers unless you create or repeat other tweets. The more you put out the higher the likelihood to get followers. The more followers you get the implication is that your ideas must carry substantial weight. There is no vetting of your following. They can be geopolitical experts or simply people that play video games in a dark basement.

    Instagram just announced a new way for propaganda to be shared. From their site
    “Now, with stories on Explore, it’s easier than ever to discover new stories you’ll want to watch.

    More than 100 million people visit Explore every day to discover photos and videos from people they don’t yet follow. The new suggested stories section highlights the most interesting stories from across Instagram’s vast global community — and like the rest of Explore, the stories you’ll see are personalized to your interests”.

    Product personalization now encompasses political thought. The last line reinforces the idea that you will see only what you want to see. Hardly a means to an informed electorate. As I pointed out in earlier post, Noam Chomsky said to keep the electorate obedient and compliant limit the range of acceptable opinion but allow lively debate within that range.

    It’s easy to jump on the train of popular opinion. It’s just real hard to get off when the train reaches a speed that will cause it to come off the rails.
    One of the reasons I use my real name when I sign in is so that I not just an amorphous data delivery system cranking out memes that fit a particular political narrative. I am real not a merely hashtag.

    • Steven,

      I think you are correct. Watch what happens when a celebrity, athlete, or some other person of fame/notoriety breaks from the accepted group think. For instance, if a professional football player decided that wearing pink in October was an idiotic way to address breast cancer, that football player would become a pariah. Or, if some football player thought that God bestowed on him great athletic abilities so on a scoring a touchdown, he would drop to a knee and pray, why that player would be mocked repeatedly. Or if a presidential candidate’s wife supported him (even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is a boor) she would be mocked on a late night tv show (Stephen Colbert, anyone?).

      jvb

    • junkmailfolder

      Great comment. The other relatively under-explored underbelly of social media is the anonymity, which you touched on briefly. It may be a chicken-or-the-egg argument, but I believe online anonymity results in more uncivil behavior in real life. If you spend your free time trashing other peoples’ worth as freely as your average internet commentator, it will bleed into your daily face-to-face interactions.

      Of course, the argument could be made that internet comments merely follow the cultural train, and Jack has written enough about how vulgar, coarse, and unkind our culture is becoming.

    • Comment of the Day. What is this for you, four? You should give it to Alizia…

  4. I suspect she would have a different opinion of the matter if the athletes who stated their opinion did not feel the same way about those matters as she does. At that point they will not be doing “the right thing” in her eyes.

  5. Maybe sometimes experience of life gives somebody the right to speak out, having defected from a communist country at 18 going to the Usa where Martina could not even say she was a lesbian before she had her passport, her treatment by spectators etc.
    This woman who read the newspaper already as a youngster in Czechoslovakia why can she not give her opinions like Ali, Bradley and Billie Jean King.
    Martina spoke for the United Nations about discrimination against gltb people all over the world and here at the State Department before the IOC and FIFA so her opinion is apppreciated.
    By being out so early Martina has made live comfortable for many gays and they have told her so for many years. If you can give your opinion which is not so great she certainly can.

    • I’ll now give you a much-coveted Ethic Alarms, “I’ll Be A Real Societal Asset Once I Learn To Read” award. Its a model of someone jumping the gun, made of cheese.

      The post, if only you could read, issued no criticism of Martina’s various public opinions on various issues of substance. Here—get someone literate to read this to you:

      You earned credibility and influence regarding social and political issues by intelligently and boldly standing up for your own rights and privileges, on issues that affected you directly and about which you had an important perspective and a legitimate reason to speak out. Female athletes. Discrimination. Gay rights. Feminism. You had credentials and authority in all of those areas, and using your status as a sports star to spark intelligent debate was responsible and fair.

      Once you had established your credibility, analytical abilities and skill at articulating issues while taking informed positions on them, then you had earned added legitimacy separate from your athletic prowess and stardom. You’re a smart person: smart people’s informed opinions should be listened to and considered no matter what the topic. Many athletes have expanded their legitimate authority and influence this way. Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Ted Williams. Billy Jean King. Bill Bradley.

      I’ll wait…has someone read that to you yet? Where did I criticize Martina? I criticized her idiotic assertion that athletic stardom ALONE confers a reason for other athletes to opine on non-sports related matters, and to inflict uninformed blather on the public, who then take it as an issuance from Olympus, not that SHE hadn’t justified her own activism.

      I, you dufus, write about ethics here and only ethics, being an ethicist. I do not presume to do so because I am famous for something else, or famous at all. Do I opine on how to hit a backhand? NO. You, for example, based on this stunningly dumb comment, are fully qualified to opine regarding living with illiteracy,

      If you can’t bother to read the posts, or can’t comprehend them better than this, don’t comment. Better yet, go to a pre-school site and work your way up to Ethics Alarms.

      SEE SPOT RUN. RUN RUN, SPOT.

      Christ.

  6. Chris Marschner,

    I agree with your thoughts. Well stated, my friend. Well stated.

    jvb

  7. Other Bill

    “All it does is make intelligent discourse more difficult.”

    What a great line. I was just this morning trying to articulate this problem. So much of what goes on these days makes intelligent discourse more difficult. Black Lives Matter. Bernie Sanders. Noam Chomsky. Political consultants, etc. And many of the comments even here make intelligent discourse more difficult. Things too quickly devolve into arguments, which are not discourse.

    Great line. Took the words our of the remote recesses of my addled brain.

  8. Alex

    I’m willing to cut her some slack here, Martina is suffering from the Typical Mind Fallacy. She thinks that all other star athletes can be as smart, articulate and responsible as she is. We all suffer from it in one way or another, but our culture refuses to acknowledge any intellectual differences making my opinion as valid as that of a renowned statesman, a 12 year old or one of the Kardashians. It’s sad because in a slightly different world she could have encouraged athletes to inform themselves and be opine intelligently or shut up if they’re not prepared. I guess that sentiment is probably closer to her intentions, but she didn’t have the tools to express it that way.

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