The Irrationality of Loyalty in Sports

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Sterling Sellers, Sports Journalist

The expectations that sports fans put on players vary from fan to fan and from player to player. Modern media has catapulted athletes into the forefront of stardom, and along with this status comes tremendous expectation.
    The world’s greatest athletes are paid millions of dollars, and are expected by many to justify their salaries with their athletic performance. This makes sense considering that athletes are paid to work just like the rest of society; and the rest of society is paid based on the quality of work.
      However, many expectations that are thrown on athletes are irrational and unrealistic. Perhaps the most irrational of these is the expectation that athletes should stay loyal to a certain team.
       The most notable of these occurrences may be the Golden State Warriors’ signing of NBA superstar Kevin Durant. Durant spent the first nine seasons of his illustrious career as the cornerstone of the Oklahoma City Thunder, before he made the controversial decision to move to the Warriors.
       Durant’s decision came after his team was narrowly beaten by the Warriors in the 2016 NBA playoffs. Golden State also had the best regular season in history in 2016, winning a historic seventy-three games out of eighty-two.
        Fans across the world lamented the superstar a traitor and a coward en route to his first championship win. Over a year after his decision, Durant still receives immense criticism because of his decision. The abuse is directed at him because he made a decision to live somewhere else, and apply his trade for whichever team he wished. This abuse is largely undeserved.
       The idea that a player shouldn’t follow his wants based on an unwritten moral standard is ridiculous. There is, of course a frustration that comes when a great player leaves your favorite team; but these athletes are human beings doing a job just like everyone else. They deserve the same consideration that everyone else receives when changing a place of occupation.
       As free agency has become more prevalent in modern sports, the response to players making their own decisions to further their careers has become more negative. It’s time for fans to realize that these athletes work hard to entertain people, and that they are not obligated to play for any team, no matter the circumstances.
       When superstar point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas were traded for each other just weeks ago, some Boston Celtics fans showed their displeasure by burning their jerseys adorned with Thomas’s name. These gestures are made all the more toxic by the fact that Thomas had decided to pull on his Celtics uniform and play in a vital playoff game just a day after his sister’s tragic death. Many fans and peers of the former Celtic denounced these gestures and voiced their support for Thomas.
        This support is hopefully an indication that the sports world is beginning to see players as more than just athletes. They are free to make their own decisions based on their wants and needs. When a player does make the decision to play for another team, don’t constantly criticize their decision. Respect his or her career decisions, and come to terms with the fact that they don’t owe the fans or the community anything.