Sport can stand for more than just a game

For more than 20 years the Footy Show as told us Aussie Rules football is “more than a game”.

The theme music, by Chris Doheny, tells us it’s not just about fortune and fame, but rather about passion. That passion has translated into million-dollar merchandise sales, sponsorship contracts galore and celebrity status for many athletes.

Sport has the power to be more than just a money-making business. Many teams and athletes do their best to give back to the communities that support them through ticket and merchandise sales.

The past week we have witnessed evidence of sport moving from a merchandise empire to more than a game, by becoming actively involved in social issues.

Last week the AFL temporarily changed its logo to read ‘yes’. The sign has since been removed and a rainbow flag now flies at the office. The AFL was heavily criticised by Sam Newman, and others, for taking a political stance. Newman argued that the AFL shouldn’t be involved in the political agenda whether it be same-sex marriage or climate change.

Moving overseas, sport in the United States has been making headlines. Firstly, President Trump withdrew an invitation for the NBA champions Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House. He did so after Warriors player Stephen Curry said he wouldn’t attend the White House visit.

What followed was another spectacular Twitter rant by the President who called on the NFL (American football) to force players to stand for the national anthem or “fire them”. Some players had been bending a knee during the anthem in protest over the treatment of African-Americans and other minorities.

Even better was the league’s response, with most teams standing arm in arm and some kneeling for the anthem. Some teams didn’t even take to the field until after the anthem. It was a sign of solidarity. A peaceful, political protest designed to send a message to the community about their beliefs. As New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics”.

Sport has the power to unite society and to lead a conversation. As long as respect is shown, it should be seen as a good thing. These athletes are placed on pedestals and told to be role models. Let’s not criticise them when they express a social opinion with respect and thoughtfulness.

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