The Daily Gamecock

Column: Gamecock athletes have potential to influence students' votes

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With the midterm elections coming up on Nov. 6, students at the University of South Carolina are bracing to exercise their Constitutional right to vote for their preferred candidate of choice. 

With a more technological society, students come in contact with politics on social media through their phones, laptops, etc. Many athletes, artists and other celebrities have a history of voicing their opinion, especially since the 2016 presidential election. It is only fair to wonder if the political opinions of these certain individuals influence the choice that citizens make at the polls. 

On the professional level of several sports, especially in the NFL, athletes have recently been more vocal on political issues. Spectators at NFL games and those watching the games on television and through their phones have seen players kneeling during the National Anthem to promote social justice and advocate for better race relations in the U.S. 

Students at USC are particularly exposed to Gamecock student-athletes on social media.

A poll was conducted on The Daily Gamecock's Twitter page on Oct. 24, asking students if they feel that Gamecock athletes have an influence on how they vote in elections. Out of 298 votes, 94 percent said Gamecock athletes do not influence their vote in elections. Only 6 percent of students said Gamecock athletes do influence their vote. 

After looking at Twitter accounts of various Gamecock athletes, one could infer that if these athletes used their platform to voice their political opinion, it would reach a lot of people. 

Deebo Samuel alone has over 14,300 followers on Twitter. Former Gamecock women’s basketball star and current WNBA player A’ja Wilson has over 37,500 followers on her Twitter account. 

If these athletes have thousands of followers, why don’t they influence many students at USC? Many student-athletes may be wary of posting their political preference due to fear of backlash. Students who said athletes do not influence their voting decision may refuse to change their opinion based on what a Gamecock athlete says. 

Students come from different backgrounds across the country and internationally. Therefore, how they were raised or where they grew up might influence their decision more than just simply what a South Carolina athlete posts on social media. 

Students also most likely follow Gamecock athletes for sports-related posts only, so they might prefer for athletes not to post their political stances. They may feel that sports is a refuge to get away from politics and the divide that the United States is experiencing. 

Despite the fact that the United States is experiencing a political divide, sports will always bring people together. Whether it is cheering for the Gamecocks with 80,000 other people at Williams-Brice or 18,000 others at Colonial Life Arena, sports always finds a way to break down barriers and bring people together.