Amid the controversies over polluted waters, the Zika virus and Brazilian political tumult, there’s another question looming in the run-up to the Rio Olympics next month: Should U.S. athletes boycott?
“If I were [an Olympic athlete], I would have serious reservations and conflicting emotions about representing the United States in Rio,” he said on Monday’s show. “I would seriously consider boycotting the Olympics, withdrawing from the Olympics.”
Smith said, while there are plenty of reasons not to go to Rio, including Zika, pollution and other issues, the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, should be at the top of the list for athletes such as Carmelo Anthony and other NBA players, who have spoken out against the violence on social media and whose careers don’t depend on Olympic success.
“I’m not going to put the USA on my chest and bring honor and glory to a country that is not respecting my fellow citizens as human beings with equal protection under the law,” he said. “People are hungry for athletes to speak out and embrace their citizenship.”
Smith’s sentiment was seconded by his ESPN colleague Mike Green, although not necessarily for the same reasons. Green has repeatedly noted his frustrations over Brazil’s lack of readiness for the event, including failures to clean up the waters where the sailing events are to be held.
“So should they not play in Dallas? Should they not play in New Orleans?” NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus told SportingNews.com on Tuesday. “I mean, there’s a lot of horrific things all over the world – including in our country. We’re not perfect. And other countries say the same thing about us. I think it’s a little hypocritical for anybody to say we should try to affect the politics or the culture of another country based on sport – and a peaceful gathering of sport. I don’t admire that point of view.”