Pacers star Victor Oladipo explains why he decided to “step outside the box” and endorse Sen. Joe Donnelly.
Jim Ayello, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS — Stick to sports? No thanks, says Victor Oladipo. That philosophy is reserved for people who define themselves as athletes and nothing more.
That’s not Victor Oladipo. Not anymore.
The budding Indiana Pacers superstar vowed to start pushing the envelope, to “play nothing safe now. I used to be conservative but that really didn’t get me anywhere.”
That’s why Oladipo had no problem defending LeBron James when President Donald Trump attacked the face of the NBA on Twitter, and that’s why he was in Hammond, Ind. on Friday. The Pacers star attended a campaign rally last week with former Vice President Joe Biden where he publicly endorsed Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
Cautious thinkers might have warned Oladipo that sticking his hand in the political arena would risk alienating half of his growing fan base. They might have told him that it’s safer to keep his name and developing brand away from politically charged issues, especially during election season. They might have told him to keep his opinions to himself, but Oladipo says he isn’t interested in staying quiet. He says he’s interested in helping change the world, and he’s not sure that can be done quietly from the sidelines.
“I just went out there and hung out with some pretty important people I guess you would say,” Oladipo said after Pacers practice Monday at St. Vincent’s Center. “After that, after leaving there, I was enlightened. Enlightened to continue to change people, change lives in a positive way. That’s what it’s all about, no matter what you believe, no matter what you represent, no matter what’s going on, it’s about lending a helping hand. And that’s what I got from it. That’s the message I’m trying to spread. If we just continue to help each other and uplift each other, then maybe eventually our world will truly be a better place.”
Oladipo knows there will be plenty of people who not only disagree with his political opinion but in his decision to voice his opinion at all. In fact, many of those people have already commented beneath the photos he posted on social media endorsing Donnelly.
“Wow Vic, just when u we’re becoming my favorite player,” commented one Instagram user. “Does LeBron’s barbershop make you qualified? Canceling #nbaleaguepass miss my old school Reggie Miller #Pacers.”
Oladipo understands why some people might feel this way, but he doesn’t care. He’s not going to let those people prevent him from speaking his mind.
“At the end of the day, we aren’t just athletes,” Oladipo said. “I have my degree in kinesiology from Indiana University. If I was just at athlete, I probably wouldn’t have (gotten my degree). But being an athlete is not just dribbling the ball or throwing a football or kicking a soccer ball. There’s so much more that we have to do outside of that. More we have to learn to do outside of that or we’ll crumble. It is what it is. People have their opinions, but me personally, I don’t believe we are just human beings who work a 9 to 5.”
Oladipo says someone in his position has the responsibility to help inspire change. The real crime, he said, would be to let his time in the spotlight go to waste. If he has the ability and the wherewithal to make a difference, that’s what he should be doing.
“They say with great power comes with great responsibility, right?” Oladipo said. “So it’s our responsibility not only to do what we do, but to do other things, like give back to others and make a difference. That’s what I’m trying to do with the platform and the power I’ve been given. … I’ve got to continue to be a positive influence. It’s not only young basketball players who look up to me, but young men and women who don’t necessarily play sports, as well. It’s pretty cool to think about.”
Follow IndyStar Sports reporter Jim Ayello on Twitter and Facebook: @jimayello.