From Colin Kaepernick to Serena Williams, there has been a lot of controversial statements made in the sporting world recently.
A few weeks ago Nike put out an ad campaign featuring a black and white portrait of Colin Kaepernick, former 49er quarterback, with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” displayed across it.
Many sports fans and people across the nation know Kaepernick for his kneeling in the summer of 2016. He kneeled to raise awareness about police brutality and other injustices. This sparked incredible controversy in not only the sports world but in the world of politics as well.
President Donald Trump was highly critical of Kaepernick’s 2016 actions, and of the Nike ad as well. A little over a week ago, Trump tweeted out, “What was Nike thinking?”
Nike also came out with a video as part of the Kaepernick campaign, that has bolstered almost 26 million views on YouTube.
According to Bloomberg, Nike’s stock plummeted tremendously after the release of the campaign, however, just last Thursday, Nike’s stock was closed at $83.47 dollars per share––an all-time high for the company.
More recently in news, Serena Williams, the 2018 US Open finalist, sparked quite the conversation after her actions during the championship match against 20-year old Naomi Osaka of Japan. Williams initially received a violation for coaching but talked it out with the referee, Carlos Ramos, assuming that he understood that she was not receiving coaching. The first violation only receives a warning with no sort of penalty. After losing a few games and letting the match slip from her hands, Williams threw her racquet on the ground, which in tennis, is another violation. This second penalty cost Williams a point in the next game, where she absolutely lost her mind.
“I do not cheat to win. I would rather lose,” Williams said and wanted Ramos to apologize to her in response to the coaching and racquet abuse violation.
Williams didn’t stop there. During the changeover where Williams was down 4-3, she began to call Ramos a “thief” and was belligerently telling him to apologize. Williams also said she wasn’t getting off the hook as easily because she was a woman and not a man. Because of this, Ramos gave Williams a code violation of verbal abuse, which cost her the game. The head referees of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) finally came onto the court, but by that point, it was too late.
I respect these athletes of elite status because they have achieved so much, from Kaepernick leading the Niners to the Super Bowl, to Williams being considered the G.O.A.T with her countless wins and domination of the sport. Because of Kaepernick’s and William’s achievements, they posses platforms to express their thoughts and opinions. However, there is a time and a place for addressing what one believes in.
When controversial topics are brought into sports, they flood all aspects of sports news. Watching football has become difficult because of the countless news outlets talking about Nike, Kaepernick, President Donald Trump or all three combined. Osaka’s win has also been completely undermined due to all of the news headlines about Williams’ breakdown.
So where do we draw the line between sports and politics?
There are media outlets that do their best to separate sports and politics. It is not too often that you come across CNN with a sports story headlining, but Williams’ story did. In such a polarized society, it is almost impossible to separate the two.
“Today, more athletes feel financially secure enough to speak up..in the age of social media, sports stars also know they’ll find support for their views online among fans,” said Jay Coakley, a professor of sports sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder.
When players are on the field or court, they are there to play and to win–– nothing else. If players feel strongly about topics, then it is their job to find an appropriate platform to speak about them. There should be a line that is drawn when it comes to pulling politics into the world of sports.