Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes, they should

TIME magazine came out with an article at the beginning of the month entitled "Should US Olympians Speak Out?" Well, yes, they should.

Of course the article was published before the recent earthquake which makes it difficult to critique China--the whole kicking someone while they're down kind of thing.

But let's compartmentalize a little bit and not forget the myriad of egregious policies and behaviors enacted by China that did have everyone talking not so very long ago.

Well everyone except maybe, many--or most perhaps--athletes who are either being told not to speak their opinions about the situation(s) or don't care much at all about what has been going on.

Quite annoying have been the responses of some American athletes including Paul Hamm who believes it is up to the politicians to work this one out. Well no one is asking Hamm (who has already been that the center of quite a bit of Olympic controversy, why shy away now?) to solve the problem. It would just be nice to be informed. Because it would be nice if everyone was informed--not just athletes. And athletes don't get a special pass because they are athletes.

So when Abby Wambach says "That's a lot of responsibility, to ask an athlete to not only represent your country and perform and try to win a gold meal, and to have a political view," I just cringe. (I may need to ditch that Abby Wambach t-shirt I got for Christmas this year--oh that's right--no one answered my request for an Abby Wambach t-shirt. I guess it's a good thing. I need to stop having crushes on athletes--they only disappoint me.)

Abby Wambach, you too are a citizen of the world. Get informed. Being a soccer superstar means being a role model--which I know you know--and being a good role model means being politically informed.

This article was particularly poignant in light of one of the questions I asked on my sport soc final last week: what are the obstacles to athletes being agents of change?
Well lack of interest in knowing anything about anything outside of sport. But also there is pressure from above--sponsors, governing bodies, agents, etc.--who effectively shush athletes. That hasn't stopped athletes like Joey Cheek and Jessica Mendoza though who have both not only gotten informed about world events but spoken out about them. They are, though, just a few of the mere handful of American athletes who have taken it upon themselves to do so.

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