Sport and politics: should players take a stand?

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a couple of sports criticised by some people for becoming involved in political comment.

First the AFL changed its logo at head office to “yes” in support of the Same Sex Marriage Survey. Some people, including former player Sam Newman, were horrified and called on the AFL to stick to playing AFL.

In the USA more and more sportsmen in the NFL are kneeling during the National Anthem. This is a silent protest in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

President Trump has called for these players to be sacked from the NFL.

So, should sports people stick to sport, or is there room in society for sports people to use their position to push or support a social agenda?

History tells us that sports men and women have been involved in non violent support of many issues over the years, most of which have lead to positive social change.

In 1968, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made a protest on the dais at the Olympics to bring attention to human rights issues in the USA.

Australian runner, Peter Norman, who came second, supported his fellow runners by wearing a badge in support of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

All three were roundly criticised for their actions at the time.

In fact, Norman never ran at another Olympics, despite clocking adequate times.

44815C8400000578 0 The AFL changed its logo to spell out Yes at the AFL House in Me a 67 1506057570409 e1506548988378In 1971, six of the Wallabies withdrew from the Australian team due to play the Springboks in protest against apartheid and South Africa’s policy of not selecting Black players.

At the time 85 per cent of Australians surveyed felt that the tour should go on. 

Prime Minister McMahon was critical of the protesting players.

Shortly after this, Don Bradman, as Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, cancelled a planned tour of Australia by South Africa.

South Africa had already been excluded from the Olympics from 1964.

They did not return until 1992.

Many people believe that being excluded from world sport hastened the decision by sports mad South Africans to abolish apartheid.

History tells us that the actions of Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman and the Australian Rugby Players and Cricketers are now viewed as a very positive act – but at the time not as many people agreed with them.

Time will tell whether the actions of the NFL players and the AFL are viewed as positive.

In any event, whether you agree with these actions or not, we should all respect their right to stand up for a cause that they believe in.

And remember, there’s no such thing as too much sport.

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