Athletes protesting can be double-edge sword

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 11:19 AM

We’ve seen it before. Professional athletes have used their platform to discuss their concerns, or to publicly hope for change in our society and political system. Colin Kaepernick — the former 49ers quarterback who chose to kneel during the national anthem at NFL games — is a prime example of making a statement in the face of millions watching at home (including politicians).

Kaepernick’s decision to kneel was simple: it was a bold statement to seek change for the mistreatment of African Americans and other minorities in the U.S. It focused around law enforcement shootings.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kapernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” 

The actions from Kaepernick that day, and from then on, drove people to have conversations on if what he was doing was admirable or unjust.

Anyone who has strong enough morals can change the world for the better, even when many people do not see it that way.

Three years later, the former quarterback is still seeking employment from any willing NFL team. Many athletes shy away from stirring the pot for fear of being scrutinized or fired for what they believe. Evidence suggests that’s what happened to Kaepernick.

We view athletes in a different light compared to other figures in society. They have larger-than-life personas that evoke heroic traits and inspire people to do better, but we forget professional athletes are also human beings. They have views on politics, social injustices and want to seek change for the world. Having a large platform to express your concerns is something many people don’t have these days. Many people argue that sports and politics should be kept in separate rooms and never be spoken of in the same utterance. If athletes want to go talk politics, it shouldn’t be on a sportscast, they say, but a news show.

However, this ideology is wrong. The world of professional sports is an untapped gold mine for endorsing all sorts of things. If you see a professional athlete make a gesture, act in accordance to a belief, or make a statement, people will see it and comment on it.

Politics once again became entangled with sports because of Turkey’s men’s national soccer team. The team has made several (on field and on social media) political gestures in honor of their Turkish military during the Euro 2020 football qualifiers. Coincidently, this was happening during and coming off the heels of military attacks against Syria two weeks ago.

The attacks took the lives of civilians and soldiers on both sides, and the gestures from the team caused worry with other teams heading into future games in the tournament. France was scheduled to play Turkey last Monday in Paris, but the match almost didn’t happen. France is allied with the Kurds, who are fighting in northern Syria, and the issue of sportsmanship and hostility was called into question. Both teams completed the match with no problems and tied in a final score of 1-1.

The mix of politics and sports is double-edged sword; the actions of a player can be used for the best interest of people, and in the world as a whole, or they can create chaos.

Jean-Christophe Lagarde, a member of the National Assembly of France, displayed his anger regarding Turkey on Twitter, stating, “How can one allow a football match to become a political petition in support of an army invading another country and massacring civilians who are our allies!?”

The Tweet came after the Turkish football team repeated the salute, this time in Paris during that match-up between France and Turkey. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is being called on to investigate this recent display.

The UEFA prohibits its teams and players from using political, religious or provocative gestures in sports settings.

There must be a line drawn to prevent poor sportsmanship in contests from here on out. These athletes are polarizing figures, and if they use their platforms in a negative light, people can see themselves sharing the same ideologies or biases as the stars. A police presence was needed due to fears of the crowd revolting against France, and the game could have gotten very much out of hand if it weren’t for this precautionary measure.

Sports and politics, two differing past times, will always go hand-in-hand with each other. When unethical issues, wars or controversies appear, the conversation heats up when involved in everyday sports broadcasts. Using a platform as a star in sports can be positive when the intent is clear and concise.

But there is a double-edge sword that we must bear in mind. The recent military salutes to the Turkish military were in poor taste. I understand the need to acknowledge the soldiers that fight for your country, but little sportsmanship was shown to the French during their football match. An opportunity was wasted to showcase the power athletes possess with their political messages.

We must be cognizant to the fact that statements are powerful. They can send shockwaves through millions of people, sparking conversations on if the actions of individuals were ethical or unethical. Athletes must set a higher standard as they have the chance to control the narrative.

My hope is that we can look at our heroes and distinguish what message is right or wrong in order to learn from it and for a chance to change society for the better.

Tags: opinions

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