I love sports. Like any industry, many institutions within it (FIFA, NCAA and the NFL to name a few) have their issues. But at its core, it represents a venue where people can break records of physical feat and social barriers.
Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947, bringing an important change to a league that had deep roots in racism. Today, while the league still has major strides to make in terms of its diversity, there are players from all over the world in MLB clubhouses.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos risked their lives and their livelihoods when they protested the treatment of black people in America by raising their fists and taking off their shoes. Colin Kaepernick followed suit by kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism in America.
Muhammed Ali in the prime of his career sacrificed three years of fights to protest the draft. Serena Williams is the record holder for women’s singles major tournament wins, doing it while still facing the same racist stigmas that have plagued the sport. Even musical performances in the Super Bowl have pushed boundaries.
Many people within sports resist the urge to politicize sports because they think that this keeps their team’s appeal as “universal” as possible. Reality dictates that when there is silence on social progress, oppressive policies remain the status quo. There has only ever been one openly gay player in a major sports league on an active roster. There has only ever been one woman on the coaching staff in a major sports league. There has never been a transgender individual compete in a major sports league.
Today, the struggle for progress in sports continues. There are many prominent figures supporting Trump. Locker rooms are divided by race. Nevertheless, it is a microcosm of America in many ways and I am heartened by the fact that there are persistent agitators for change.