Nowadays, various political spheres have been dominated by political personalities. Talk of George Weah, a well-decorated soccer player becoming Liberia president, to the American political landscape where athletes such as Stephen Curry, Colin Kaepernick, Richard Sherman, and LeBron James condemning racial injustices. These stances have offended political elites and media fraternity, leading to some slogans such as ”shut up and dribble” and ”out-of-touch-millionaires”.
But these narratives that sports personalities have recently joined politics does not add up. To understand the relationship between politics and sports, the article will take you through various incidents that will tell you that politics and sports have been in existence for long.
Sports and Society
To be well acquainted with the relationship, go back to the roots. Sports symbolize how people live; they portray unity, hard work, respect, and useful life. Also, in most cases, sports are perceived as globalization tools. They lead to various interactions from social media, to players camps, to fans camps. Different people meet in the name of sport.
On the other hand, sportspeople are seen as role models in society. The way they conduct themselves affects a particular population in one way or the other. That’s why many companies are using sportspeople in their endorsements. The reason behind that specific strategy is that the sportspeople have a large following, and they can easily convert their following into potential or loyal customers.
Sports are also motivational tools. For instance, a player like Mohammed Salah of Liverpool Football Club came from a humble Egypt background. At the moment, he’s a global icon. His success has impacted his village; children in that village look live from a different lens. They are looking for life in a direction that everything is possible in life provided there’s hard work. And such thinking will transform society.
Some sports personnel are philanthropists. They do their best to improve society. Athletes such as Ronda Rousey, through her foundation, donate a considerable amount of money to Didi 501c3 to help in combating mental health disorders. Serena Williams’s charitable adventures are indisputable; she’s a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has helped build many schools in Africa; besides, she has used her connections to raise funds used to fight breast cancer. English Premier League players like Sadio Mane has built schools and hospital back in his village in Senegal.
In other words, sports and society are somehow inseparable. How you expect such a motivating factor not to influence or feel agitated with society’s politics is still a mirage.
Sports a Cultural Integration Tool
Sports play a similar role as movies when it comes to global imperialism. That’s either culturally or historically. For instance, MLB and NFL tour London, while NBA visits china in cultural expos. This creates not only intercultural exchanges but also establishes soft powers. Also, if you look at India, Cricket is the most popular sport. But do you know the genesis of the sport? The sport was brought to India by British sailors when India was a colony of Britain. Therefore, it means India and Britain are sharing some cultural values through cricket.
Sports and Politics Ancient Incidents
Sports and politics did not begin to interact recently. This has been a medieval conflict. For instance, Mayans were using sports to identify the person to use for their ritual sacrifices. Also, ancient kings conducted sports to portray their wealth.
On the other hand, autocratic leaders used sports to assert their power. Back in Olympic history, the world’s renowned human butcher, Hitler, wanted to use the Olympics in 1936 to show the rest of the world’s ideologies. But his expeditions were undermined by an African-American field athlete one Jesse Owens. Owen, driven by Hitler’s open racial inclinations, won four gold medals beating Hitler’s representatives.
In the past half of the century, the Olympics have had a fair share in sports and politics. Incidents like those of the Mexico Olympics in 1968, where athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in support of black people, caused lots of noise. In 1972, another awkward incident happened. This was one of the experiences that woke up the world, and since then, the sports industry has tried its best to deviate sports from politics, but things remain the same. In that year, the Palestinian terrorist group that was offended by Israel’s existence as a country kidnapped and killed 11 Israel athletes in the 1971 Munich Olympics.
Another incident occurred in America, one of the famous boxing icons, Muhammad Ali, objected the American-Vietnam war, and he even refused to serve the American military. The US authorities were disgusted with the stance and banned Ali from boxing. However, this did not stop Ali from standing for what he felt was right; he became an epitome figure for the Civil Rights Movement and black power.
Recent Sports and Politics Incidents
American athletes are known to have political stands. One of the recent familiar figures is LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick. Lebron openly claimed that the NFL team owners have got what he called ”slave mentality”. These comments caused a massive storm in the NFL fraternity. But if you keen on the statement, there’s truth in them. This is because every NFL owner or CEO is white, but if you look at the white players’ population in the NFL, they cannot exceed 30%. Considering this aspect, one can reason that white CEOs and owners look down upon the sport as black people event, and they are after profits. That is, if they were keen on the sport, they could have facilitated effective mechanisms to recruit white players.
The other controversy is that of Colin Kaepernick; the player started a silent protest over the treatment of minorities in America. This caused him a lot; he even sued NFL ownership for conspiring and keeping him from playing because of political stance. But the parties settled the matter in confidentiality.
The controversies do not stop with professional players. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is another area. The association makes lots of money, in fact, in terms of billions, but it doesn’t pay its players, claiming it pays there fees. In other words, the players are playing in exchange for college education, but this claim has always been disputed by many sports personnel. This is because some athletes are offered fake or useless NCAA scholarships like the bogus NCAA African-American studies that were discovered at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2014. Other players don’t even finish their degrees, especially if they are involved in a career-ending injury, disproving the NCAA’s free education claims.
How Sports and Politics affect Players?
In this situation, the small fish the one who carries the burden. And the little fish in this situation are players. In most cases, those who raise their opinions on political matters or have a different political view from the management get subjected to various attacks. It all starts with social media backlash. In this era of digital migration, social media can either propel or destroy you. Keyboard warriors are so lethal on an individual’s character. They do everything to ensure they’ve won. Some players are faint-hearted, and such attacks destroy them.
Players also lose some endorsement deals. Players not only survive on only their salaries, but they, too, do business endorsements to supplements there income. It must be noted that most corporate companies are related to each other, and once you touch one of them, they join hands to defeat the common enemy. Once a player makes a political statement and the information happens to handle an individual company in the wrong way, the dark forces join hands and make things difficult for the player. And of the things they target are the endorsement deals.
What Should Be Done?
Players are part of the society, and politics is part of society. What happens in society affects a player as a community member. Therefore, there should be space for them to give their opinion and anger. Remember, they are human, and they have feelings too. To avert such issues, justice should prevail in society. If everybody does the right thing at the right time with the right people, then society will be at peace. No one will be either on the streets, social media, or playgrounds making political statements.
Everyone should condemn vices such as police brutality, racial injustices, gender discrimination, and reckless wars. Vices cause lots of human suffering. The same way athletes are used in community campaigns such as family planning; they should be used in the same manner for social injustices. No matter the situation, a role model should be there for society.
No matter the theories from above, politics and sports are inseparable. Sportspeople have a right to endorse what is right for society and also condemn any evil. Let the sportspeople be given space to state their mind without fear of discrimination. They have a special roe to play in the society. At the end of the day, everyone needs the right society.