Seeing as it’s the last yarn for 2017, I felt we should tackle something a little meatier, something with a bit of heat to it. Throughout the year, these pieces have been about asking and answering a question within a particular sport, looking fairly introspectively at what makes that sport tick. However, with this piece, I want to look at how sport can be the fanciful theatre in which we exercise societal issues.
It is near impossible for those interested in sport to be unaware of the situation going on in the USA and the NFL. For those who aren’t aware, the National Football League of the United States is in a state of flux at the moment over a number of players and teams kneeling as the national anthem is sung prior to a game. Scenes of players, linked arm in arm, can be seen with one patella to the ground as they hear ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ ring around stadiums of confused fans. Some owners have even joined this campaign in what is the worst Where’s Wally game you will ever see. Interpretations of this action are as diverse as they are complicated but to summarise, players are kneeling in solidarity for the extreme racial inequality that exists in the US and has done for centuries.
The man the media deem as the instigator for the movement is named Colin Kaepernick, who was a player of the San Francisco 49ers up until 2016, when he became a free agent. At the time when he took that first knee, it was said he was protesting police brutality and racial inequality. It has since snowballed and turned into a cultural catastrophe with no help coming from the commander in chief, Donald Trump. His rhetoric over the past weeks, condemning players that take a knee and requesting their resignation, have inflamed the situation causing many businesses and corporations to come out against the President’s point of view.
This is just another example of how divided the US is at the moment, but its manifestation in sport is what intrigues me. The attention sport gets is un-rivalled, none more so than American Football. While there have been brutal police shootings and acts of violence towards people of colour in that part of the world, none have caught the public eye such as this. What we are witnessing here is that unlimited potential sport has in terms of the impact it can have on society and culture. While many may think of sport as a trivial excuse for middle-aged men to advance their alcohol addiction, the sporting industry has always been one for change, especially when it comes to racial minorities. We have so many success stories of people with different backgrounds having the ability to succeed in a range of sports. It is a medium which the key questions for a society can be introduced and discussed because sport is so integral to society itself.
I’m not saying the American racial divide will be solved after a few tosses of the pigskin but what the sport can act as is a forum for discussion where people who might not have otherwise known of the issue, can be enlightened in what will be a racial healing in that part of the world. Sport will always be a part of culture because it is at the very heart of what it means to be human; the desire to succeed. And it is that desire that can be recognised by all people no matter their race.