2011: When Sports Met the World

Pro athletes are told from the moment they first put on sneakers to check their politics at the locker-room door. But 2011 wasn’t an ordinary year, on or off the playing field, from the Arab Spring to Occupy USA, to the lockouts in the N.B.A. and the N.F.L., which had the  effect of forcing athletes out of their SportsCenter comfort zone and into talking about the real world. Below are a series of quotes from the  past year that showed a glimpse of a different kind of athlete,  reflecting on and even shaping the world around them.

1. Al’a and Mohammed Hubail, Bahraini soccer  legends, peacefully protested Bahrain’s Army’s shooting of civilians, and for their troubles were sacked from the team, the cuffed and  frog-marched off the practice field with two other players. Ala’a, to ESPN about being tortured in custody: “We were living in a nightmare of  fear and horror.” And to the A.P.: “I served my country with love and will continue as much as I can. But I won’t forget the experience which I  went through for all my life. What happened to me was a cost of fame.  Participating in the athletes’ rally was not a crime.”

Mohammed, to the A.P.: “Sure, I want to play. But first we need a  solution to all of this…. I need to know what is going to happen to me.  For our community, the nation, how long are we going to be like this?”

2. Troy Polamalu, Steelers safety, on the lockout: “I think what the players are fighting for is something bigger. A lot of people think it’s millionaires versus billionaires and that’s the huge argument. The fact is it’s people  fighting against big business. The big business argument is ‘I got the money and I got the power therefore I can tell you what to do.’ That’s life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up and saying, ‘No, no, no, the people have the power.’”

3. Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers cornerback,  defensive captain, and union rep, at protests in Madison, Wisconsin, in  February: “Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them.  Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people  are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to  have a voice and collectively bargain at work.”

4. Nader el Sayed, the former goal keeper of Egypt’s  national football team, running for Parliament with the moderate Wasat Islamist party, on the fall of Mubarak: “It was something I had waited for for so long….We had a popular revolution, now it’s time for the  political revolution. I wanted to join a political party, not a  religious movement….We need to participate without using intellectual, religious or economic terrorism.”

5. Etan Thomas, an eleven-year N.B.A. veteran and  member of the N.B.A. Players Executive Committee, after visiting  Zuccotti Park: “Who is in the same position of power as the 1 percent?  Who wants a bailout for their own mismanagement decisions? Who is more closely aligned with the corporate interests from which the Wall Street occupiers are looking to reclaim the country?”

6. John Carlos, the Olympic sprinter who raised his fist alongside Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics, addressing the General Assembly at Zuccotti Park: “I am here for you. Why? Because I am you.  We’re here 43 years later because there’s a fight still to be won. This  day is not for us but for our children to come.”

7. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Memphis point guard, after  becoming the first Muslim woman in history to play Division I basketball with her arms, legs, and hair covered: “In high school, someone called  me Osama bin Laden’s daughter…. It was at Holyoke Catholic. We beat them every time we played them...When some people come at me with, ‘Oh, is that a tablecloth on your head?’—it’s like, really, don’t. If you’re going to have that kind of question, don’t ask me. But some people are  truly honest in asking a question, like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be rude, but why do you wear that?’ That’s the kind of question I’d rather answer.”


[Zirin is the sports editor at the Nation. You can reach him at dave@edgeofsports.com]


Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/12/2011-when-sports-met-the-world.html#ixzz1hJ06r92F

7 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Millionaire Marxist Misses a Few

8. "To all the troops you guys are my heros." Ozzie Guillen, on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

9. "Good Morning. Its an '11 Day!!" Let's Get It!!! Victory Monday!!!! Take That, Take That Bin Ladin!!" -- Warren Sapp on the death of the terrorist enemy.

10. "They're destroying the city," a distraught resident of Vancouver on the rioting fans after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

11. "I feel like my kids on X-mas day! So juiced!!" LeBron James on the deal to end the NBA lockout.

12. "The Iranian athletes came to win just like us, but they know that if they compete they will end up in jail," Yoel Razvozov on Iran preventing their athletes from competing against Israelis.

13. "The Iranians care as much about the spirit and point of the Olympic games as they do about nuclear non-proliferation and human rights." U.K. Foreign Office on Iranian government.








Good point

The above comment,minus the vitriolic personal attack on Dave, actually raises a good point. If political speech in the sports world is a necessity then we must be prepared to accept and even celebrate points of view we disagree with being expressed. Political discourse in a healthy democracy must make a space for all voices. which means for one player to express a view that is pro LGBT rights, we must Be prepared to hear from another that 'all f$@'s will burn in hell'. We can not race for sanctions against someone in the sports world that says something inflamatory against one group, and then champion our own rights to freely express. In other words racist, mysogonistic, homophobic, xenophobic, ginoistic speech must as a necessity be protected as much as that which we aspouse. Other wise we are not fighting censorship but simply looking to become the new arbitrators of what is and is not morally and socially acceptable speech.

You missed a quote yourself Tornado. . .

From October 4:

Keep bringing the hate Tornado! I love your obsession with me. Just stay away from my kids.

From the author of this column himself. Happy New Year.

Good point

The above comment,minus the vitriolic personal attack on Dave, actually raises a good point. If political speech in the sports world is a necessity then we must be prepared to accept and even celebrate points of view we disagree with being expressed. Political discourse in a healthy democracy must make a space for all voices. which means for one player to express a view that is pro LGBT rights, we must Be prepared to hear from another that 'all f$@'s will burn in hell'. We can not race for sanctions against someone in the sports world that says something inflamatory against one group, and then champion our own rights to freely express. In other words racist, mysogonistic, homophobic, xenophobic, ginoistic speech must as a necessity be protected as much as that which we aspouse. Other wise we are not fighting censorship but simply looking to become the new arbitrators of what is and is not morally and socially acceptable speech.

Remembering the all-star game boycott that wasn't

Adrian Gonzalez really blew it this year. I'll never forget that. He could win 10 batting titles and 10 World Series rings... but to me he'll always be the guy who didn't take a stand for his people (after initially saying he would). Dear Adrian, one person with courage is the majority.

May I have the envelope please

8. Dave Zirin. He's a sportswriter who thinks outside the box and I appreciate variety. With DZ the cliche "reasonable people can differ" applies. I believe his heart is in the right place even though his brain isn't. Happy New Year,Dave.

Running back

And then there was the running back (purposely unnamed) who tweeted that the official 911 story is hard to believe. He got hammered and, thankfully, backed down.

7 Reader Comments | Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: This forum is for dialog between Edge of Sports readers. Discuss!

Submit your comment below:

Your Name

Email

(Only if we need to contact you—not for advertising purposes)

Subject

Message

Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
Become an Edge of Sports Sustainer (Click Here)


Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com