The phrase “stick to sports” has always been one that frustrates me. We forget that professional athletes are in fact human and go through many of the same things we do. Athletes should not stick to sports and if I had to pick just one reason why, it is because they have the platform for positive change, to change the perception of many different people. People listen (for good or bad) to professional athletes. They have the ability to bring to light situations that we may never know about otherwise. Many of them go through things that I and many other people go through and it helps to hear that.
I will admit that I have become a lot more openly political in this election cycle. And that is because I cannot sit silent and let the injustices of this country continue to hurt many of the people that I care about. On the media side, I do not believe there is any “pure” definition of just sticking to sports. The political side will always be there.
I cannot just stick to sports and I expect the athletes I follow to be human too and express themselves. Sports is an escape for many but the real world still exists. And these athletes go through just as much, if not more, than I do.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from an English professor in college. She told me that as a writer, the only thing I was responsible for was putting my work out to the world at the highest level I could achieve at the time. How people reacted to it – whether they hated it, or loved every word – was not up to me. Trying to control the reactions of my readers would only drive me insane. I found that to be true, so I’ve since applied that to all areas of my life, including my involvement with sports. Athletes, being people, have the same responsibility. They put not just their on-field play, but pieces of their personality and beliefs out to the world. They have no ability to control your reactions.
The flipside of this truth is similar; you can never control what other people say and believe. If you try, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You can only control your reactions to what people say. If an athlete isn’t “sticking to sports” and that frustrates you, that is not the athlete’s problem. You get to deal with that, and how you do is one of the true tests of character. Are you going to get mad that someone doesn’t agree with you? That’s a dangerous, exhausting road to walk down. Or are you going to recognize that they are people with the same right to an opinion, and your disagreement doesn’t change that?
The first time that I realized the power of sports was when I saw a video of Syrian refugees traveling to the tournament opener for the Jordanian team in the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Many of these little girls hard lost everything—their homes, their belongings, their friends, even their family. But football brought a smile to their faces. These girls said that playing football was their favorite thing in the world, and that getting to see their new home country play was the best day of their lives.That’s when I realized—we can’t just stick to sports. Sports have the power to change the world. They bring communities together. They lift people out of darkness. And sports can be used as a tool for awareness and action in some of the deepest social and political issues of our time. To simply “stick to sports”—to talk about the game without talking about the people who play it, the communities they represent, the world they and all of us live in—would be irresponsible. So, we won’t just “stick to sports.” Before we are athletes or journalists, we are humans. And that is the most important title we carry.
Im not sure when the phrase “stick to sports” was coined but its one that I completely disagree with. Athletes are human too, so why should they limit themselves to just being that? Those who are in a position to do good for the human race and bring awareness to social and political issues should absolutely take the opportunity. If we as a society stuck to sports, things would not change, perception would not change and in order to truly understand each other we need to have positive influences from people of all different backgrounds, races, genders, orientations, religions and so on. Humanity NEEDS diversity. So when I see or hear the phrase stick to sports it’s frustrating to know that so many people don’t want to see any other side of a story or a different way of life. Athletes and those in media have a unique platform to use and I sincerely hope people understand why Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett continue to fight for justice. They are just two breve examples of why we cannot stick to sports. They are doing their part to make this world a better place even when they are treated unfairly; they still fight, they still use their voice, they still are working for this country. It’s a lot of work but if people stop hating and discriminating that would be a good start yeah? Because in today’s political climate where we have an unthinkable amount of uncertainty, we need to hear people’s stories so we can find ways to make it right. Dethrone evil and bring all the good into this world. So NO, I will not just stick to sports.
Why shouldn’t I just write about sports? Because it’s impossible. Plain and simple. If I am going to write about sports then I am going to have to write about everything else. Because sports aren’t just about kicking around a ball, or running up a field, or swinging a bat. Sports can be about taking a knee during the national anthem, wearing an equality t-shirt during pride month, or even filing a lawsuit for equal pay based on gender discrimination. And if I were to just write about the stats, and the box scores, and the rosters…well then I would be missing a lot of what sports are all about. They have this ability to touch every issue around them, and it provides athletes a voice to stand up for what they believe in. If I were to only write about the athletic technique that gets put on display, then I have missed the bigger picture.
And I admit that many times I do. I don’t write about the opinions or the social issues or the taboo enough. And for that I apologize. For that, I will own that I haven’t always shown the bigger picture. Because the cross into the box may be note worthy, but so is the personal strife that is happening off the field in our communities. So I promise to do better. I promise to write about more than just sports. It shouldn’t be too difficult though…it’s impossible not to.
If you look at any of my social medias, you see mainly two types of posts. Sports, and politics. Those political posts sometimes get me into…. passionate discussions with people who disagree with my views.
The easy thing to do, would be to stop posting political things. In other words “stick to sports” – post my hot takes, talk about sports news, and complain about the reffing. The easy thing to do would be to stay silent, but the thing is? Staying silent helps no one. Staying silent draws complacency to behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs that discriminate against human beings because of their religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression – anything that is “not normal” or “different.”
So, no, I will not just “stick to sports”. I will not stay silent. I will not be complacent.
I will use my platform and my privilege to speak up. To give those who can’t speak up and have been silenced a voice.
As said by Jennifer Donnelly: “We who have means and a voice must use them to help those who have neither.”
For many people, sports is an escape. In a media landscape where everything is contentious and politics seems to infuse every conversation, they savor the freedom provided by sports. As pure entertainment, the only relevant questions are athletic prowess, tactical maneuvers, and whether their favorite team wins. When faced with troubling questions about the intersections between sport, politics, culture, and society, they are resentful. Why can’t coverage just stick to the sports and leave all the rest out?
But when you dig into the question, you quickly discover turtles going all the way down. There is no ‘pure’ version of sport that resides underneath all these layers of complexity. Sports exists within our society, and is therefore a part of that society. If it doesn’t seem political, that’s only because its politics align so closely with your own as to render themselves invisible.
Does it seem ‘political’ when the national anthem is played? It should. That anthem represents a principle of national unity, a collective spirit. It stitches together those who hear it, whether they want to be tied together or not. Someone who challenges that process (as we have seen in the past year from players like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe) is engaging in politics, certainly. But it is ‘political’ to kneel during the anthem precisely because the anthem is an incredibly powerful political signal.
It’s political when teams offer salutes to the troops. It’s political when players and teams dispute over contracts. The Kiss Cam is political (just look at what happens when it focuses on two people of the same sex). Who plays? What does the crowd look like? How much does the team invest in outreach to minorities, to women? Why are certain sports taken more seriously than others? Who gains and who loses from this sort of coverage? These are all political questions, and they would remain political questions even if the underlying conditions changed drastically. Sports will always be political, because life is political. That isn’t intrinsically a good or bad thing. It’s just a reality.
So if you enjoy treating sports as an escape, you are certainly free to do so. That freedom exists for many people, as a function of choices that have been made over the centuries, and it is a freedom that is well-relished. But let’s not pretend that this is a matter of avoiding politics. To inhabit a position of privilege and freedom, and to attack those who lack those same advantages simply for mentioning this condition, is the essence of a political position.