Thursday thoughts: Despite public reaction, Hayes' outspoken disposition a stellar example for American children

Nigel Hayes has received national recognition for speaking out against injustice in his time at UW.

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto

No, Nigel Hayes does not need to just “shut up and play basketball.”

And, no, he doesn’t need to “stick to sports,” either.

As one of the faces of college basketball, Hayes has been granted a platform. He will speak, and audiences will listen. After all, he’s a projected first-round NBA draft pick and a media darling who just happens to lead a team that may be one of the best in the country.

He’s using this platform to shed light on issues that he believes are important, most notably the Black Lives Matter movement and the payment of college athletes. Who are we to tell him to not use his status to share his opinions?

Let’s start with Hayes’ comments regarding Black Lives Matter. In a summer that included the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Keith Lamont Scott, Hayes took to Twitter to express his opinions.

“Racism towards black people isn't getting ‘worse’, it's getting filmed and shared for all to see what actually goes on. #BlackLivesMatter,” wrote Hayes.

As is often the case with BLM debates, Hayes received a ton of backlash from his followers, of which he has 75 thousand.

A lot of it was the usual responses from All Lives Matter people, but there were also plenty that wanted him to keep his mouth shut and just keep throwing an orange ball through a hoop.

But here’s the thing: even if you disagree with Hayes’ viewpoints, telling him to not talk about issues that are important to him is ludicrous.

Yes, Hayes is a basketball player, and a good one at that, but he’s a human being first. We’re all taught to stand up for what we believe in. Why is this different for Hayes just because he is a successful college athlete?

More recently, Hayes made headlines for bringing a sign to College GameDay that read, “Broke college athlete, anything helps.” Again, this prompted similar responses from the public about Hayes being too outspoken and how he should just focus on basketball.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: Fans care more about the team and Hayes’ success on the court than they do about him standing up for what he believes in. They think Hayes will cause some sort of a distraction, or that his performance will suffer because he talks too much about social issues and other injustices. Which begs the question, should that really be our main concern? Considering the reach Hayes can have and the children that look up to him, I find this pretty unbelievable when you consider a college superstar like Jameis Winston, who set an example that sexual assault and stealing is okay, as long as you’re a big-shot athlete.

But even if you disagree with his positions, it’s hard to deny that Hayes fights for what he believes is right, a value that we can all learn something from. He’s setting an example to kids everywhere to stand up for themselves. That’s not something we should be discouraging.

Nigel Hayes is more than a basketball player. He is an intelligent, eloquent, deep-thinking black man who is using his large audience to get a message across. He refuses to waver or back down from his beliefs, even in the face of harsh, and often racist, criticism.

The Badgers are poised to make another Final Four run this year. They are deep, experienced and talented. They are well-coached and hard-working and determined. Much like the team that nearly won it all two years ago, this team has lofty expectations.

But even if those expectations aren’t reached and Hayes struggles this year, when his collegiate career comes to a close, he will be remembered as far more than just a basketball player. He will be remembered as someone who always stood up for what he believed in.

And that’s something that we should all be proud of.

Never change, Nigel.

Is Nigel Hayes setting a good example for children by speaking up for what he believes in? Should he stay quiet and focus on basketball? Let Bobby know at sports@dailycardinal.com.

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