Great Debate: Should athletes be criticized for leaving their team?

Bryan Look and Ethan Stern

No. Athletes shouldn’t be penalized for leaving home.

by Bryan Look

When star athletes become free agents they are often left with an option of either staying where they are and trying to win with what they have, or leaving for a different team where they may be more likely to win games and championships. If an athlete stays at home they keep their fan base, but risk never winning a championship in their careers. If they leave, they have a new opportunity to chase rings, but risk scrutiny from the media and their former fans.

Recently, National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar Kevin Durant was left with this decision, and ultimately elected to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in favor of the Golden State Warriors, a team that was already coming off the winningest season in NBA history. The backlash against Durant was immediate and harsh.

I believe that athletes shouldn’t be penalized for leaving home because athletes aren’t always lucky enough to be in a position to win championships so should exercise their rights and do what’s best for themselves.

Every major professional sports league in America has some sort of policy used to restrict players’ free agency, particularly at the beginning of their careers in order to avoid them leaving their original team. The owners of these professional teams believe they can make more money if their young stars don’t leave during free agency early in their career.

In Major League Baseball (MLB), there was no free agency until 1976. Even now players cannot become free agents until they have been in the majors for six years, unless they resign with their own team.

The National Football League (NFL) restricts its free agents whose three-year rookie contracts have expired, meaning their team can match or decline any deal the player signs with another team. If the player were to stay with their team even when they have the legal right to leave, they and the various Players Associations would lose negotiating power when it comes to both salaries and collective bargaining agreements. Players need to instead do what’s best for themselves, whether that’s staying home or going somewhere else.

Some may say that truly good players should win where they are instead of taking the easy way out by going to another team. Though this makes sense in theory, it doesn’t always make sense in practice. Players have to be in the right situation with teammates and organizations in order to win, no matter how good they are.

NBA great, Michael Jordan is a good example of a player who found himself in a fortunate situation with teammates like Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson, and was able to take full advantage of  of his circumstance. Other players usually aren’t as lucky. LeBron James has proved himself as an NBA great, but he still had to leave Cleveland in 2010 because he wasn’t in a position to win championships. Instead, he did what was best for himself and went to Miami where he won two NBA Championships.

Although many may disagree, Durant likely would never have won a championship in OKC so he exercised his rights and left. Other players need to do the same in evaluating their own situation and making a decision based on what is best for their own career, and not the happiness of the fan base.

At the end of the day, what players chose to do in free agency is their choice, so fans shouldn’t criticize their decision. We can’t force athletes to stay in bad situations and it’s not up to us to decide whether or not their situation is a good one. Let’s let the free agents be free.


Yes. Professional athletes have an obligation to stick with organization that put their faith in them.

by Ethan Stern

What does a professional athlete resemble? Is it his or her statistics? Is it the amount of championship rings they won? I say nay. What matters in the long run is what type of legacy the athlete leaves the game with. The ones that are never forgotten are the ones that looked adversity in the eyes and did not back down. The athletes whose legacy is merely temporary are the ones that dodged any sign of struggle by “taking their talents to South Beach” et cetera.

At some point in the history of professional sports, there was a depletion in the integrity of these superstar athletes. What happened to the honor of sticking with one team for the long haul. By analyzing the differences between today’s professional sports and the professional sports of yesteryear, this change is quite abundant and it’s effects are clear to see when it comes to not only competition but how we as fans watch the game.

Staying with a team shows loyalty and allows the athlete to create a true connection with a franchise, even when a player doesn’t achieve the fame and heights of those who left in the pursuit of championships. Athletes like this build strong relationships with the city and fans that leaves behind a true legacy. Such as AS Roma forward Francesco Totti, who has been on the club since 1992. He may never be known as one of the greatest to ever play the game, but he hold the dearest spot in just about every Roma fan’s heart and along the way cumulated countless team records. He has become the epitome of loyal legend and should be the archetype for all professional athletes who are just breaking through to the professional level.

Every athlete in the world has dreams and ambitions of being on the biggest stage and winning the biggest trophies and rings possible, so why shouldn’t all the greatest players play on whatever team gives them the best chance of winning the most games at the end of the season?  I’ll tell you why: Because the most important part of becoming a G.O.A.T (Greatest of all Time) is overcoming the greatest adversity and having the greatest legacy. Staying with one team throughout your career will truly cement one’s name into the team’s history books as well as the sport as a whole if one truly is a great. Even if you don’t reach those heights, to be able to sweat, bleed, and cry your team colors will create a bond with the fans like Lebron will never be able to do. That’s what a legend is in my book.