ANDI ZUCCHI — While the world has traditionally been a recreation free of political debate, in the past couple years there has been more and more blending of the two. For those of us who are interested in both sports and politics, this era of sports has created a compelling time to be a fan. It seems that as the political climate in the United States has hit what you could say is a breaking point, everything has or can be politicized.
Along with the rise of movements such as “Me Too,” the messages that professional athletes are bringing to the table are important and seem to be reaching a broader audience of Americans. The flip side to this is that by politicizing sports, the divisiveness of American politics has come into even more facets of our everyday lives. For this reason it’s hard for me to say whether politicizing sports is in the best interest of our society at large.
When talking about the politicization of sports I think it’s only right to start with the person who arguably made the biggest splash. When Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, there was a hugely mixed reaction. On one hand, by not standing for the national anthem Kaepernick sent a powerful message about the racial climate in America that resonated with a lot of people. On the other hand, people were upset that he was not respecting the flag.
I understand both sides to this debate, however I think that anyone can see that by making his statement on the field Kaepernick was able to take the frustrations of many to the forefront of the news. While this started as an individual act, other football players and eventually athletes in other sports joined in. In my opinion, it was good to see so many different athletes of different backgrounds and sports unite for a cause that has been so controversial and difficult throughout our history.
Maybe the biggest place where politics and sports have been clashing recently are times when athletes are invited to the White House by President Trump. Last year a portion of the New England Patriots chose not to accept Trump’s invitation, and it looks like that is what will happen this year, too. I wholeheartedly believe that each athlete should get to make a decision they feel is in line with their values; however this is just another example of how divisive politics and their role in sports have gotten.
So, do I think that politics and sports should be sharing a platform? It’s really hard to say. I’m all for athletes spreading positive messages and using their platform to enact change, but seeing the polarization of politics spread to sports is hard when people turn to sports and entertainment to escape the divisive nature that has been defining the last few years. I don’t see a change in the near future for the role of politics in sports, and I’m excited to see how they impact each other in the future.