Sport is a form of competitive physical activity that cannot be seen solely for entertainment. Since sport is a microcosm of society, it cannot escape the political ideologies reflected in society.
Politics and sport are entangled when athletes and coaches voice their opinions and use their playing fields to raise awareness for causes they feel are most important to them. They can reach a large audience based on their popularity, fan base, and amount of media attention they receive. These actions impact decisions from the teams, leagues, outside sponsors, and the public in return.
Activism is an aspect of politics that is constantly entangled in sport. In the obvious example of Colin Kaepernick, his political views have been showcased on the football sidelines for taking a knee during the National Anthem this season. His actions are not without meaning, as he has made it clear that he is protesting for those oppressed in this country who don’t have the platform that he does to further the conversation.
“This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t”
There have been several other players and teams who have followed Kaepernick’s lead and kneeled during the National Anthem including NFL players like Jeremy Lane and Brandon Marshall, NWSL’s Megan Rapinoe, high school teams, and even band members.
Coaches and athletes have also spoken out about the recent election, showing that they are not alienated from it simply because of their profession. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich expressed his frustration and anger about the election results for six minutes Friday night comparing the U.S. to the Roman Empire.
“My final conclusion is, my big fear is, we are Rome.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, has openly supported Donald Trump. Coaching a team from a state in which every county voted democrat Tuesday, this was alarming, especially to the Boston Globe and other news outlets. Coaches voices and opinions matter to their fans, but when their opinions don’t match their fans, there is discrepancy and they received a ton of negative backlash publicity wise.
Earlier this year North Carolina passed a controversial bill that bans individuals from using bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex. This is just the basis of the law, to read more click here. http://www.ncleg.net/sessions/2015e2/bills/house/pdf/h2v4.pdf
In response to this, the NBA, NCAA, and the ACC all made decisions that moved competitions from Charlotte. The NBA decided to relocate the 2017 All Star Game, the NCAA pulled all 2017 championships from the state, and the ACC relocated all championships from North Carolina over this law. All three stated that they have relocated the games from North Carolina in protest to the HB2 bill because they are all opposed to any form of discrimination. The state will lose upwards of $175 million dollars in 2017 as a result of these actions.
These are just a few modern examples that symbolize the importance of the coaches and players’ opinions to the American public. Because people look up to these individuals and respect them, their opinions are valued higher than others. It is important to realize that their athletic ability and performance on the field each game can be overshadowed by their opinions and stances they take on political issues.