Politics and Sports: A Complicated Relationship

Dexter Cruse, Contributor

In recent years, politics in sports has become more and more prevalent. Across the world, sporting organizations are taking stances on political issues that come up.

Formula 1 has launched the #WeRaceAsOne initiative to fight challenges of COVID-19 and global equality, the NBA played with “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court during the 2020 playoffs due to racial injustices and many more leagues have taken stances on issues across the globe.

Perhaps best known is the saga of former football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, born in Milwaukee, who was launched into the position of American civil rights activist for kneeling during the National Anthem at the start of NFL games in protest of police brutality and racial inequality in the United States.

With sports providing a very public platform for airing political views, a division has formed between fans, athletes and others in the sporting community over whether that is appropriate.

When asked about players and teams attempting to make social changes via sports, a student-athlete from UW-Superior said, “I think it’s a powerful thing. It has a great effect on many people in the United States and the world, and I like how they are using their platform for something more than sports.”

Taking on another view is a local wrestling coach who asked to remain anonymous given the extreme controversy over the topic.

“Sports need to stick to what they are, sports,” he says. “For many people, sports are an escape from the real world, a place where they don’t have to think about things that are going on. They can just free their minds and cheer for their favorite teams.”

Sports do serve as an escape for lots of people, so they don’t have to think and worry about what is going on in the world for a couple of hours. With the presence of politics in sports, it reminds people what is happening and there is no true escape from reality.

Collegiate and professional sports provide a platform where millions of people can see what athletes do and believe. Athletes are able to take advantage of this to spread a message and try to inspire change. They share their views in forums such as social media and even during press conferences.

So, should politics be demonstrated in sports? It depends on who you ask.

Peacefully protesting causes no harm to anyone. There are free speech issues that come into play. Yet, players and organizations have been boycotted because they are simply exercising their rights.

Using one’s sports star status is not a new concept and not one likely to disappear. Ever hear the story of Jesse Owens sprinting in front of Adolph Hitler? Or Muhammad Ali throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River?