Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry


Photo: Genessa Gutzait

summer full of sports has taught me a few things: soccer is still king, the NBA off-season is infinitely more exciting than the actual season, and—much to the chagrin of American politicians and team owners—politics will never be exorcised from sports. 

The 2018 World Cup was far and away the most exciting edition in recent memory. But even the stoppage time heartbreakers, cataclysmic upsets, or sensational screamer goals couldn’t prevent politics from sneaking into the world’s game. Two players from the Swiss contingent, winger Xherdan Shaqiri and midfielder Granit Xhaka, were each fined after a controversial goal celebration in their group match game against Serbia. After goals in the second half of the match, Shaqiri and Xhaka each made hand gestures representing a golden eagle, an allusion to their Albanian ties to Kosovo, the former Serbian province. 

Back home, the political and sporting world continued their collision course. NBA superstar LeBron James and President Donald Trump continue to exchange barbs, after Trump questioned LeBron’s IQ following an interview with CNN, where James criticized the president. 

In the NFL, only a week into the preseason, it’s clear that their containment policy for national anthem protests has failed. Three Miami Dolphins players protested during their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Despite the best efforts of billionaires and politicians, politics are engrained in the very heart of sporting history. Jackie Robinson is immortalized not because of his individual stats or accolades, but because he broke the age-old color barrier in baseball; Muhammad Ali sacrificed his freedom during his prime by refusing to enlist after being drafted into the Vietnam War; while the endearing image of the 1968 Olympic games was the two fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos doing a “Black Power” salute during the U.S. national anthem, which lead to their expulsions from the games. 

Whether organizations are trying to hide the issue, or shun the protestors, the protests are here to stay.

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