Paul Daugherty: Stick to sports? No, we need more athletes like Oscar Robertson.

Paul Daugherty: Stick to sports? No, we need more athletes like Oscar Robertson.

ay, way back in the day, when Bob Trumpy owned local sports radio like roosters own sunrise, he’d silence callers he didn’t agree with by asking them if they’d “ever played the game.’’ If they hadn’t, they’d best step aside and let the pros handle things.

Few challenged him. Trumpy had (has) a Darth Vader voice and a cocksure certainty about all things. He played a game well. After he retired from the NFL, he was a terrific voice at any event he covered. I did wonder, though, how a talk show host did so well by discouraging talk.

I also wondered this:

Trumpy covered golf and the Olympics for NBC. Occasionally, he’d offer his opinions on each. How could he do that? He didn’t play on the PGA Tour. He never walked in an Opening Ceremony. What good were his opinions?

The NBA gave Oscar Robertson its Lifetime Achievement Award Monday night. Afterward, O did what O does. He spoke his mind, forcefully. He said white athletes should address perceived injustices, too.

“The only thing that really bothers me is where are the white athletes when this is happening?

"This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It's all around you. Just because LeBron steps out, I'm glad he does. I think it's time for them to say what they want to say about life and about politics and things about the street and whatnot. And about education. What do you want players to do? Shut up and dribble?’’

Well, now that you mention it…

That’s exactly what a majority of fans – at least fans around here – want players to do.

You can argue the issues. Both sides are right. Free speech matters. So does the consumer. The rights of an employee to sound off are no more important than the rights of his employer to turn a buck.

It’s my right to speak my mind.

It’s my right to tell you to take it somewhere else.

And so it goes. There is no right answer. Only Hatfields and McCoys, world without end, amen.

Disagree with Oscar Robertson if you want. I have no problem with any athlete walking acreage outside his own. I’d appreciate it if he/she did so with respect and class, but it’s not mandatory. Jocks with viable beliefs, who act upon them in a constructive way, should stray from their sports as often as they like. They have considerable sway. Opening themselves up for criticism – or heaven forbid, a loss of endorsement deals – takes courage. It makes them more human.

Take issue all you want. Just don’t dismiss them as ill-informed, don’t insult them with condescension. Don’t presume athletes aren’t aware of the bigger picture. Don’t assume their unique talents preclude them from having curiosity or a social conscience.

Don’t tell them to Stick To Sports.

“Stick to sports’’ is the contemporary version of, “Did you ever play the game?’’ It’s not about protesting the Anthem, or protesting anything on company time. It’s about trying to stifle speech from people with whom you disagree.

It seems especially aimed at athletes. Bruce Springsteen uses his shows as platforms to discuss social justice. Who at his concerts tells him to Stick To Music? Charlton Heston was a mouthpiece for the NRA. He was the NRA president for five terms. No one told him to Shut Up and Be Moses.