By Branson Hardcastle | Reporter
Professional athletes are looked at as heroes in their cities. Kids are out playing basketball, football or baseball wearing athlete’s jerseys, trying to mimic their moves and acting like they’re the person whose name is on the back of the jersey. All is well between the athlete and the fans until the unthinkable happens: the athlete leaves the team for a better opportunity elsewhere.
Immediately after the athlete announces their decision to leave, devastation sets in. Fans can’t comprehend why the athlete would leave their beloved team. The fans go from worshipping this athlete to despising them. Instead of thanking them for their tenure on the team, fans begin to do the unspeakable: they burn the jersey of their once favorite athlete.
The jersey burning epidemic has been around for years but perhaps no player’s jerseys left as much ash on the ground as LeBron James when he decided to leave Cleveland to head down to Miami. Fans took to social media to post themselves burning the jersey of their once favored James.
It hasn’t just happened to James either. Isaiah Thomas’ jersey was burned when he was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The difference between him and James was that he was traded. Thomas didn’t have a choice of leaving, and yet fans still chose to burn his jersey.
Why do we as fans do this? Do the ashes of the jersey make us feel better? Does it bring a sense of satisfaction to no longer have that jersey in our closet? Is it just a way for us to let out anger and frustration?
Frankly, most people probably don’t know why they’re burning jerseys, but one thing is for sure, it has to stop.
Burning jerseys accomplishes absolutely nothing other than leaving a pile of ash on the ground. It doesn’t send a message to the athlete because chances are they don’t even know that you burned it.
What fans fail to remember is the sport that their favorite athlete plays is their livelihood. As much as they are entertainment, sports are also a business. The athletes are playing for the love of the game, yes, but this is how they provide for themselves and for their families. When they have the opportunity to play for a team that offers them more money, they are most likely going to take it because it allows them to provide a better life for their family.
As people, we don’t get mad at others for taking a different job because it pays more. So why do we get mad at athletes for doing the same? They have to make decisions based on income, just like the rest of humanity.
James put it really well in one of his tweets when he said, “When ‘we’ decide to do what [is] best for us it’s ‘cowardly’ ‘traitor’, etc. but when it’s on the other side it’s ‘business`…”
Athletes perform at the highest level to entertain us, but more importantly they perform to provide for themselves and family. Fans need to realize that professional sports are a business first and foremost. Burning jerseys to lash out at athletes won’t change anything. The sooner people come to terms with that, the sooner the whole jersey burning epidemic will perish.