Should Sports Stars Be Political? Yes.
By Madeline Hopper '21
It’s evident that today’s political climate is very polarized and divisive. In contrast, sports have long been regarded as a unifying force that can coalesce communities and countries behind a team or a particular athlete. Those who have chosen to transcend their roles as athletes and advocate for political issues they feel passionate about have garnered mass amounts of attention, both negative and positive. The outrage at these athletes has illuminated a controversial question: should sports stars be political?
In response to a question regarding Trump, Megan Rapinoe said on CNN: “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.” Rapinoe had just emerged triumphant from the Women’s World Cup, a victory for America in the sphere of soccer. This direct critique sparked controversy among the President’s supporters, and Trump accused Rapinoe of disrespecting America, the White House, and the Flag. Despite rampant opprobrium, Rapinoe has held her ground and continued, unapologetically, to fight for social justice. Rapinoe also kneeled during the national anthem in 2016 before a soccer game, a calculated move inspired by Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, protested police brutality and the widespread injustice against minorities by taking a knee during the anthem, a song meant to evoke pride for one’s country. In an interview with NFL media, he said "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." However, after his protests became a prominent topic of discussion in the media, Kaepernick was not offered another contract, leading him to file a grievance against the league. He asserted that he shouldn’t have been punished for protesting peacefully.
These athletes are merely exercising their first amendment rights, but the subsequent media frenzy has illustrated how many people feel politics doesn’t belong on the field. This belief that the sports industry should stay about sports shows that supporters who don’t agree with an athlete’s political views might feel alienated or uncomfortable. However, politics have permeated almost every aspect of our daily lives. Those who can merely disregard the issues plaguing our country are the ones who are privileged enough to not be affected by the very discriminations Rapinoe and Kaepernick fight against.