Athlete Activism Is Needed Because Of The Intersections Of Sport And Society By Cheryl Roberts

18 Jun

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There are those in control of sports officialdom who push the line that ‘sport and politics don’t mix’. And there are those in sport who know that intersectional sport cannot and should not be dismissed as if sport is divorced from the society it represents.

Although conservative sports officialdom would want us believing sport exists separately from ‘poltics’ and the interaction and mixing of the two shouldn’t be done, the reality is sport is not only a reflection of the society we live in, but sport is about the society we live in.

 

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So what’s that got to do with people in sport, with athletes and officials and all others. This is what its about: if your society is an unequal one, like South Africa, USA, India, England, China and almost all other countries, the sport will reflect all the inequalities. If your society is about gender inequalities, sexism, racism, misogyny, gender based violence, abuse, minority wealthy and majority struggling, then sport will reflect all these discriminations and inequalities.

But not only will sport be a reflection of such inequalities and disciminations, as a participant in sport you will be affected by such. Working class participants in sport struggle to advance in sport because of their economic chains while middle class and wealthy don’t confront such struggles as working class participants. Then there’s racism, sexism, misogyny, patriarchal supporting sport and officialdom, men’s hegemonic control of sport. And how can athletes, officials, sports fans and sports consumers be silent about injustices, discrimination and inequalities in sport?

Much of world sport officialdom is conservative, men controlled and patriarchal supporting. They enforce the idea that sport is independent and divorced from politics and society. They want athletes especially to be muted, have no opinion and expression and no activism when it comes to calling out and challenging all the ngatives, deficiencies, racsm, sexism, gender, colour and class discrimination associated with sports organisation and control. They are vehemently opposed to athlete activism, yet remain committed to upholding patriarchal supporting sport, racism, sexism, gender, class and colour discrimination in sport.

This sport officialdom silences athletes by adopting resolutions like ‘no activism’, no ‘black power fists’, no comments and opinions and politics, sport and society, no ‘protest action’, no ‘knee’ moments. They declare just no opinions at all to be expressed by athletes and all involved in sport.

But some athletes refuse to be silenced: today’s athletes like Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick, Marcus Rashford, and many more. And then there’s the activism of John Carlos, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and the anti-apartheid athletes of South Africa and the world over who refused to play sport with apartheid South Africa.

Many athletes say they want to speak out and challenge but are afraid to do, in case they don’t get selected for representation. And many athletes are racists, sexists, abusers, misogynists who will never be involved in athlete activism but their own right wing stuff. And many athletes believe they should be neutral and opt to stay muted.

Athlete activism the world over must be intensified. To right the wrongs in sport, to disrupt men’s control of sport and patriarchal supporting sport, to eliminate sexism, racism, inequalities and discrimination. Athlete power can reign supreme and can topple sport officialdom because without the athletes participating in sport, there will be no sport. Athletes can and should speak out, disrupt, challenge. There are opportunistic athletes who care just for themselves and how they are benefitting in sport. We must watch out for such opportunists. Most importantly, we must support athletes when they disrupt and speak out!

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