OPUS Mag

Far from timid • Caveat Lector

"Stick to Sports" - Part 1

"Stick to Sports" - Part 1

There is a myth floating around social media that somehow sports and politics are separate.  To some, sports are seen as a means of escape from the everyday rigors of life. To others, sports are a menagerie of sorts of the world's best athletes competing on the highest stages. Both of these statements are true but what sport's isn't devoid of is politics. The term "stick to sports" is akin to the all lives matter response to the black lives matter one. Certain people believe sports in devoid of politics and shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath and that is completely false. This isn't even up for debate and is a waste of time for anyone to argue any different and here's why.

The early Maya civilizations, which came before any modern sports were created, engaged in a religious and political sport. The winners were revered and the losers were put to death. These sociopolitical games had high stakes and I doubt the rhetoric of "sticking to sports" could be applied. The results of these games shifted the course of societies. 

As the world shifted forward and civilizations grew the politics of sports did not change. One can only look to the intentional segregation of black and white male and female athletes to see how the world's politics applied. Black athletes weren't allowed to share the same field and even when they were, they showered, ate and even slept in different areas

And even the integration period of sports was a slow one and met with tons of resistance. Jackie Robinson is our most famous icon of sports integration, but rarely do we discuss people such as Marshall "Major" Taylor, (First AA to win a championship in any major sport) Harry Lew, (First AA professional basketball player) Joe Gans, (First AA boxing champ) Lucy Diggs Slowe, (First AA woman to win a major sports title - Tennis) who all succeeded despite sports still being heavily segregated. And there is a litany of other male and female athletes who climbed through adversity who aren't often mentioned. It was the politics of our society that wouldn't allow others like them to compete in the world of sports. Female athletes are still marginalized to this very day due to gender and race politics yet and still, people are asking journalists to "stick to sports" as if the world would allow them to! Without the politics of sports would Jesse Owens feats at the 1936 Summer Olympics at Berlin be as memorable? Although his crushing defeat of the dictator Adolph Hitler and his "Aryan Supermen" was of legend he still wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with then President FDR. Speaking of the Olympics what other time in the world do we see the nation come together in rabid support of American athletics? Chants of "USA" echo throughout arenas in a national moment of pride yet people want us to believe sports should be devoid of politics. The "stick to sports" trope is a convenient one because America refuses to admit to their bias of AA and women athletes. 

One can Google articles of claims that Serena Williams is "too dominant" for Women's Tennis. Imagine working hard to be the best professional athlete, laying waste to mostly white competition only to be told that you might be "too dominant". Is LeBron James "too dominant" for NBA basketball? Are Tom Brady and the Patriots "too dominant" for the NFL? No. Serena's dominance only comes into question because people are tired of seeing a black woman win not only a lot but out loud. Recently Jon McEnroe suggested that Serena would rank 700 if she played in the Men's circuit. I wonder why this isn't said about Maria Sharapova who is a dreadful 2-19 versus Serena? I wonder where she would rank against the men? Was Jonny Mac "sticking to sports" or engaging in gender politics to reduce the significance of Serena's dominance in women athletics? One can only wonder. 

Simply put the idea of us just "sticking to sports" would be great if the fans of sports allowed athletes to be just that, athletes. Professional athletes have to be role models, take pictures, sign autographs, compete at high levels and stay out of trouble. All the while not engaging in politics, current events, and ignoring all basic needs outside of the gaze of moronic fanatics. These men and women are humans and while they may wear the uniform of your favorite team or play for your city, they do not belong to us. If they decide not to "stick to sports" who are we to judge? Be certain that journalists such as myself will continue to cover all aspects of sports including the politics. 

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