Politics in Sports
By Mikey Rottier
For better or worse, the entire sports world and major athletes hold a tight grasp on the influence of today’s politics and culture. There is no doubt that sports have become one of the biggest industries in the entire world. They generate a large income and influence people's everyday lives. We live in a world where sports are very powerful and popular for all ages, so in some cases, known professional athletes hold more influence over society than politicians do. It makes sense when you think about what the majority of the public would rather tune into, the super bowl or the presidential inauguration. 30.2 million viewers tuned in to watch President Trump’s inauguration whereas almost 100 million viewers watched the 49ers and the Chief in Super Bowl LIV.
When athletes take political action or a stance during a high profile national, international sporting event or press conference it sparks nationwide and in some cases global awareness and controversy. In 2016 before an NFL matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting during the national anthem while the rest of the stadium stood in support of the flag. Many fans were very upset because they felt as though Kaepernick was disrespecting the country. At a press conference after the game, he spoke on the matter “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. 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,” Kaepernick said. Although there was an abundance of controversy and criticism surrounding Kaepernick’s decision to not stand; it had accomplished what he wanted and the country was talking about his issue.
However some people are against the collision of politics and sports. They believe that athletes and coaches should just stick to playing their sports and leave the politics out. In 2018 Lebron James, one of the most decorated American athletes of all time, spoke about being a black public figure in America, and the racial slur that was graffitied on his Los Angeles home. James also spoke out against President Trump. After the press conference journalist Lauren Ingraham was not impressed with the basketball star’s political stances. "It's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball," she said, "keep the political comments to yourselves. … Shut up and dribble.” Lebron was unphased however, saying that he did not even know the journalist before the comment. He also said that all she was doing was helping to raise awareness for his cause.
With such a large diverse audience it is easy for athletes to mold society and bring awareness to the political issues that are important to them. Although some are against the athlete’s use of their influence for political reasons, some believe that this influence could be used positively in shaping youth. “I think that athletes should use their high profile and social status amongst youth to advocate for what they believe in,” Ben Blazel (11) said.
Whether you believe politics should be involved in sports or not, in today’s society sports is a popular pastime for many people of all ages and different political backgrounds. Sports has become a large platform for speaking out for what you believe in and raising awareness in an effort to create change in the world.