WEEK 4

The readings this week centered on questions our class itself seems to constantly return to: what has political activism looked like in sports historically and why does the media/general public limit athletes in their political activism? Stephen Townsend, Gary Osmon, and Murray Phillips partly answer the first question in their case study of Muhammad Ali. Unlike sports activists which cover our newspapers in modern moments, the actions and beliefs Muhammad Ali held which sprouted controversy were multi-faceted. Whereas Colin Kaepernick found divisive fame around the conversation of one issue, Ali’s divisive fame included topics like race, religion, and anti-war sentiments. I was unaware of the complexity of Muhammad Ali’s story prior to this article, although I knew he remains a black power icon and, moreover, an icon to all for remaining true to his personal beliefs during the height of his fame. The idea of a black, Muslim, anti-war athlete finding success in the 1960s seems… impossible, given the climate of race-relations at the time. Yes, the Civil Rights movement was passed in 1964, but we know as historians that it can take years (or in this case decades) for culture and climate to match up with law. As made obvious by the actions of Kaepernick and greater societal conversation, structural and systemic institutions remain in misalignment with the law either. Muhammad Ali’s story is one of eventual success, as pointed out by Townsend, Osmon, and Phillips, who find extreme interest in examining this success through the eyes of the journalists and press who covered Muhammad Ali. Unlike our ever-expanding landscape of media outlets, the press was the main medium for consumption of news at the height of Ali’s fame. The aforementioned authors highlight Muhammad Ali’s eventual acceptance by even journalists who claimed to hate him the most, such as Authur Daley. However, my understanding of this acceptance is that it came as the greater public’s perception of race and war sentiments began changing- and while they didn’t shift enough to meet Muhammad Ali’s stances, Townsend, Osmon, and Phillips point out that at the same time, Ali found success and gained respect in the boxing world and lost his radical edge to his views. I believe Muhammad Ali’s eventual acceptance reflects a slight shift in cultural values, paired with a willingness to hear his words because of his athletic success and less aggressive stance, rather than a true acceptance of his beliefs. Using the article Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick and other background knowledge to compare the two athletes, one similarity between the two is their eventual acceptance by the media. Kaepernick has been mostly accepted by big media outlets, such as The Ringer,The New York TimesCNNThe Guardian, etc. Even major brands such as Nike, as pointed out by the article Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick, provide evidence for an acceptance of his beliefs and actions. Despite this acceptance, Kaepernick remains a divisive figure. This leads me to the conclusion that the greater public hasn’t shifted its cultural views on police brutality- his original reason for protesting.  Perhaps the media is ready to use Kaepernick’s face and support him because they truly believe in his cause, or they’re scared to be the last ones to condemn police brutality, or as pointed out by Michael Baumann, it’s a business strategy (Nike). 

Differences between the two athletes include Kaepernick’s similarity to Smith and Carlos. All three athletes were pushed from their sports and place in the public eye at the very moment their radical actions became public attention. The aforementioned athletes’ identity as a human being lost its significance, especially once the media turns their actions into a conversation on the controversy of the act rather than the intention of the action. Ali, alternatively, remained in the public sphere even when banned from the boxing ring. Everything discussed to thus far serves to answer the question of what political activism has looked like in sports historically. But why does the media/general public limit athletes in their political activism? Take Lebron James for example, who was told by Fox News Host Laura Ingraham to “shut up and dribble” when he spoke out in agreeance with Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Based on our readings and class discussions, I argue athletes (and more so BIPOC athletes) are seen as commodities first and foremost- whose status and popularity can bring their organizations and sponsors infinite monetary gain. Mahammad Ali in the public sphere was seen as a boxer first, Kaepernick a quarterback first, Lebron James a basketball player first. It’s true that athletes of higher power status, icons, have greater protection and bargaining power with the public and it would be easier to recover from speaking out and receiving backlash; but regardless all athletes are seen as commodities- bodies with great athleticism meant to entertain, compete, inspire, and make money. So then, if athletes are seen as useful or valuable things which can be used for profit, what happens when they speak out on injustice? Injustice perpetrated by the very state which funds and consumes their careers? Injustice a majority of their base or their sponsors’ base refuses to acknowledge? The obvious solution for those who disagree with their narrative, the solution for their sponsors, the solution for their institutions: silence. As a society, especially in the United States, we need to see athletes as human beings first- particularly in regard to BIPOC athletes who have experienced structural and systemic racism or whose communities have been victims of disenfranchisement by the state for centuries. 

Reading the two articles “Where Cassius Clay Ends, Muhammad Ali Begins..” and “Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick” It is easy to see similarities between the continuation of the struggle for Black athletes to use their platform to speak out on injustices. However, there are signs of reassurance in the more recent article. 

Townsend, Osmond, and Phillips article “Where Cassius Clay Ends, Muhammad Ali Begins..” creates a very brief history of the way Black athletes have been treated by the sports world about political issues when they discuss Ali and the draft dogging which resulted in a ban from the sport and imprisonment. This history is then compared to current leaders in the sports world and their commitment to pointing out injustices and mistreatment of minorities in modern day America. The comparisons that are being drawn link Ali to Kaepernick and that he is trying to do with his protest. The media portrayal of Ali is what makes his story so telling. In particular, when Ali announces that he will resist the draft, he also had a planned fight with Chuvalo. The article uses the quote “On one side is the sporting write-ups. On the other side is the controversial write-ups. Those controversial write-ups are getting bigger than the sporting write ups all the time” to show the push back from the media. Further on in the article, there is a more in depth history of Ali as he deals with political backlash and the name change through out his career. The article discusses white newspapers were more reluctant to use Ali’s chosen name over his “birth name”. This is another example of the maltreatment of early Black athletes. 

In the second article, “Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick”, more is discussed about how Nike is still building an add campaign with Kaepernick even though he was blackballed by the NFL for protesting. While this is still a sign of injustice, it is promising that Nike is still taking the opportunity to use Colin’s face and message as the centerpiece of a marketing campaign. The quote that really sticks out to me in that article is “Nike has hired an activist, not just an athlete.” This quote represents the importance of athletes voices beyond the playing field. 

Here is another example of players advocating for equality: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/wild/2020/08/03/matt-dumba-minnesota-wild-fist-kneeling-speech-anthem-protest/5570942002/

Week 4 Blog

As I read Where Cassius Clay Ends, Muhammad Ali Begins; Sportspeople, Political Activism, and Methodology by Stephen Townsend, Gary Osman, and Murray G. Phillips, as well as Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick  by Michael Baumann, my eyes were opened. From the time of Muhammad Ali to the time of Collin Kaepernick, politics and sports really have not changed. Even more recently than Kaepernick’s situation, the article LeBron Walked Out of Player’s Meeting that Ended ‘Ugly,’ After Vote by Lakers, Clippers to End Season [Report] by the KNBR Staff, shows how politics are relevant to sports.

The most interesting thing that I read was the Kaepernick article by Baumann. The author is very clearly biased in supporting the case of Colin Kaepernick, even claiming that anyone who disagrees with him is a white supremacists. Could one not be opposed to this method of protest without being a white supremacist? It is obvious that Nike signed the deal with Kaepernick for profit, which the author touches on a little bit. With a social movement such as the Black Lives Matter movement, companies will exploit it the best they can to make money, regardless of what political view or standpoint they see the subject from. People will more than likely flock to the stores to purchase the items that have words, sayings, or figures such as Kaepernick on them that show a message supporting a movement they are following, especially one as large as the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the article about Lebron James, players held a large meeting to discuss what will happen with the current social movements going on and the continuation of playoff games. Players could not come to an agreement and many, including LeBron James, walked out without having found a solution. Whole teams left the room because of this.

There is no way to take politics out of sports, there is no way to take sports out of politics. When someone is given a platform to express their views, they will express their views, and people will listen. The real issue is how they choose to express their ideas and views on issues and the world.

https://www.knbr.com/2020/08/26/lebron-walked-out-of-players-meeting-that-ended-ugly-after-vote-by-lakers-clippers-to-end-season-report/

Week 4

            Political activism and sports share a rich history within the United States, figures such as Muhammad Ali have become household names in the classroom for both their involvement in politics and their athletic achievements. Ali has become something of a staple for those who wish to make a change through sports believing him to be an almost virtually beloved figure, but during his time he was far from that. Many figures of racial justice in the sports world received harsh backlash for their activism, and the article presented today explores those Themes. Where Cassius Clay Ends, Muhammad Ali Begins’: Sportspeople, Political Activism, and Methodology, by Stephen Townsend, Gary Osmand, and Murray G Phillips, Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick, by Micheal Bauman, and lastly Did the NBA strike change sports forever?, by Mike Bebernes, all discuss the ramification many athletes receive when they choose to dive into political activism, and the many similarities between our current age and the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In Townsend’s article he attempts to draw a connection between Muhammad Ali, and Colin Kaepernick while also documenting the journey Ali took in order to receive true respect concerning his name change, and more importantly receiving the respect he deserved as a human being. Ali journey follows many ups and downs, this is reflected in the reference of his former name by several publications. As time moves on Ali becomes more socially acceptable and his name is cemented as the great Muhammad Ali, the acceptance of his name also cements the righteousness of his beliefs and movement. Kaepernick on the other hand may have more of a struggle on his hand than Ali did. Generally speaking, Ali became had been ousted from Boxing and was able to make a triumphant return against Joe Frazier, at this point it seems unlikely the Kaepernick will receive the same return, as he is almost 33 years old nearing the end of his prime as a football player. In addition, in the ringer article by Bauman, they go over the multi-million-dollar deal with Nike Kaepernick, which can be seen as an almost sullying if his movement for more money. Ali faced the threat of imprisonment and lost most of his financial earning, while Kaepernick received a deal from one of the wealthiest athletic companies in the world. This is not to speak about Kaepernick’s messages or beliefs, for I believe that he genuinely believes in what he is fight for, I just pointing out how Kaepernick may stay controversial for longer than Ali during his Exodus from boxing. What can be seen from Kaepernick’s protest is the inspiration to other athletes he has been, as seen by the recent NBA strike, where he is directly referenced by Bebernes, Kaepernick may stay controversial, but the movement spawned by his example will be seen as righteous, and I believe ultimately will change the United States for the better.

 

Covid-19 has changed our world in more than one way, and sports is no different. Covid-19 has made us have to think of new ways to do our sports. And now comes the issue of College Sports during the pandemic. College Football and Basketball is such a money maker for many universities, so they of course want to play but, why risk and exploit athletes health for something that may change their life or even take their life when they can’t even get paid for it? It certainly brings up quite a problem and it also brings up the problems that are now quite obvious in Collegiate sports. How or will the NCAA address this? Only time will tell, but I think the pandemic has exposed more than ever how exploitative and corrupt collegiate sports can be.

COVID-19 has reshaped a lot of the world in multiple ways. For starters wearing a mask has become the new normal everywhere in public. Classes have either gone online or been minimized to limited capacity all over the country. On top of this the sports world has been struggling to find a way to compete and make money while keeping their athletes safe. College sports specifically, has been struggling to find a way to compete. Football teams have opted to not play in the Fall while others are trying to. Some of the casualties of COVID have been specific sports programs at the university. At Appalachian State, Men’s tennis, soccer, and indoor track and field were cut. The reason for this however, had nothing to do with concern for player health. It was to save money. The closing of the men’s soccer program is especially sad due to the rich history. Before football was the powerhouse, soccer reigned supreme selling out crowds in the 70’s and 80’s. Unfortunately, in recent years, soccer has been an afterthought with sports like football and basketball getting the most attention. With this decision to cut certain sports for money purposes, it brings forth another issue. That issue is whether or not college athletes should be payed. In Covid-19 Presents an Ideal Time to Rethink College Sports, Andrew McGregor ponders this. The fact that money goes into the decision-making process and not the well-being of athletes is pretty telling of universities priorities. It is more important that the university continues to make money off of athletes than these athletes being safe during a global pandemic. If they are to risk their lives and the lives of those around them should they not be compensated in a way that is fair to them. For a long time, this compensation has been scholarships. You play football at a school and in return you receive a free education. However, this pandemic shows that education is really less important than the success of revenue. When money is tight programs that make less money have to be cut no matter their history of success. Money is king and will continue to be so in the near future.

COVID has radically changed the way that people live their lives. Now everyone is a possible enemy who could be harboring the illness of COVID. As the world begins to come back to the reality that the virus is here and we will have to live with it, changes are being made. Schools are moving to online instruction, stores and restaurants are doing contactless delivery and college sports are changing too. “Former App State Coaches, Players Come to Terms with the Cutting of Their Programs” by Ethan Joyce, points out how Appalachian State University has cut three-sport programs due to COVID. The three sports are men’s soccer, men’s’ indoor track, and men’s tennis. These cutting of these sports have nothing to do with the safety of the players, coaches, refs, or fans. No, it has to do with the money that sports bring or don’t bring in. Andrew McGregor wrote “Covid-19 Presents an Ideal Time to Rethink College Sports,” and asks the question of why the safety of those involved is not the first questions asked. Due to the financial difficulties that many are experiencing due COVID are leading universities to rethink how much they allocate to sports. This shows that McGregor’s point is a true question. What are universities going to do to continue to protect their athletes or are they more worried about money?

Sadly the cutting of the men’s soccer program at Appalachian State hurts many more than the current team, for example, those who know the history of the soccer program. Jesse Wood wrote, “App State’s Rich Soccer Tradition…Was the Golden Era Pushed to the Wayside?” Wood mentions how in the 70s and 80s App State won eleven conference championships in a row. Wood reveals that the soccer program also had ample amounts of money to spend on scholarships for both in-state and out-of-state athletes. This allowed for greater success and recruitment and helped them win those eleven championships. In other words, the program was thriving and being recognized on the national level. However, as the years went on, the program received less money and the football team and others gained more. This leads to a lower amount of money available for scholarships and less recruitment. Now that COVID has hit and money is becoming even tighter for many universities, it is becoming easier to simply take from lower-income sports and shift them to sports like football and basketball. As McGregor points out, recent events in the NCAA have allowed for athletes to gain more rights and a louder voice to protest their safety and wellbeing. Hopefully, this COVID virus will be like an ice bath for universities and others about the importance of putting the individual players first and not the dollar amount associated with the sport. Although it is sad to see three programs cut at App State, there is always that as the nation comes back from COVID that the programs could be renewed. However, the question still remains, if the programs are brought back, will it be for the amount of money the university can pull in, or the enjoyment of those how play and watch?

    In the first article, Jesse Wood’s “App State’s Rich Soccer Tradition…Was the Golden Era Pushed to the Wayside?” explains that, before coach Vaugh Christian took over the App State men’s soccer team in 1971, they were doing very poorly, mostly due to the fact that soccer in the United States and especially the High Country was incredibly uncommon, and that the university owned the only soccer goals in the entirety of Boone. After his relentless recruiting from outside of the nearby vicinity of the university, he brought the team to much success, recruited numerous star players, and won multiple SoCon championships. Then, coach Hank Steinbrecher came and gave the university its first NCAA playoff win, but left because App started to cut back on its soccer program in favor of more high-revenue sports. The club continued to be great in the 1980s, but once the 90s arrived the club was no longer as supported by the university, with as little soccer scholarships as possible. This is an example of sports history being important, because without it, it would be very easy to forget the heights of the team from the 70s and 80s and the stories of human excellence and perseverance.

    If the soccer club being less supported over the years wasn’t sad enough, the article by Ethan Joyce entitled “Former App State coaches, players come to terms with the cutting of their programs” showcases a lot of how App State’s priorities are on sports. Due to less funding from the coronavirus, the men’s soccer team, among others, were cut from this year’s funding. It’s unfortunate, because the teams that were cut gave students scholarships, and many students rely on scholarships to afford college, which means that the university can give less scholarships this year and pocket more cash right now and into the future if the teams aren’t reinstated.

    The final article by Lars Dzikus, which was written when sports were much more up-in-the-air, talks about how the absence of sports affects society, and how sports brings people together. It allows people to feel less depressed, feel a sense of belonging, and be brought together during times of crisis. With actual sports being harder to do (with the NBA’s bubble being an exception), esports are becoming more commonplace, attempting to fill the void that many other sports fans feel. NASCAR was very easily able to adapt, allowing its racers to compete virtually. Here’s to hoping that actual sports can continue to happen today without disease-related interference, at least so that people can watch from home.

The articles ‘Former App State coaches, players come to terms with the cutting of their programs’ written by Ethan Joyce, and ‘A world without sports’ written by Lars Dzikus, both focus on sports in the age of Covid-19. Joyce’s article focuses primarily on Appalachian State cutting men’s soccer, tennis, and indoor track and field sports programs, and the feelings of those affected by the decision. While Dzikus focuses on the broader sports world in America, and the many times sports have been stopped due to other crises such as the civil war, 1918 flu pandemic, both world wars, and the September 11th attacks. The third article ‘App State’s Rich Soccer Tradition … Was the Golden Era Pushed to the Wayside?’ written by Jesse Wood is about Appalachian States soccer dominance from the early 1970s to late 1980s. 

Wood writes about how Coach Christian Vaughn built the App States soccer team off the talent of foreign players, primarily from his connections to Nigeria. Under Vaughn the team made several SOCON championships and even appearances into the NCAA national playoffs, and rankings. Wood emphasizes how this is no small feat considering how when Vaughn arrived the team was following a 2-8 season and his success is linked to Vaughns relentless recruitment effort. Wood writes on how despites reaching extreme feats for a small program, App State chose to downsize their program in the midst of their rise by cutting back many scholarship opportunities for players despite having excellent attendance. This downsize of the past almost spells out the cutting of App State sports programs in Joyce’s article. Joyce wrote his article on the responses players and coaches had to their beloved programs being cut. Interestingly enough Joyce writes how both men’s soccer and tennis programs have had outstandly talent come from App State, having players receive SOCON player of the year awards, unbeatable NCAA records, or tennis players being inducted into the NC Hall of Fame. Sadly, these sports programs are casualties of Covid-19 and a microcosm of other sports programs across the country being cut, or stopped as well. Dzikus’ article speaks about sports being stopped throughout U.S history, yet how what is going on now during Covid-19 is completely unprecedented. Dzikus reveals how most instances of sports being stopped is a result of men going off to war and there being a shortage of players. Yet, in the case of the 1918 flu pandemic sports were only temporarily stopped and resumed within a few months. Dzikus ends his article on some questions about the future of eSports, and whether or not this could be the end of sports as we know it. 

The articles play into one another very well, speaking about the impacts of Covid-19 and what it can mean for the future of sports. The history of programs and the importance of sports on not just the high country but as a nation. The articles show the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting more than those getting sick, it is affecting routines, pastimes, sports programs, and possibly the modern concept of sports as Dzikus wrote. These articles show the past, and question the future as we continue to pave the way as a country during the Covid-19 pandemic.