Keeping politics in sports

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ANGELINE GERVACIO

In a recent game, Ateneo de Manila University’s Blue Babble Battalion made a political statement during the halftime break of the UAAP men’s basketball match between Ateneo and University of the Philippines (UP). The men wore black shirts, one of them held a poster that said P1000 and tore it up as a sign of protest against the House of Representatives’ passing of the budget bill that allocated only a thousand pesos to the Commission of Human Rights. Next, six men hoisted posters that complete a sentence that says “STOP THE EJKs, UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHTS.”

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This has not been the first time where sports pep squads especially in the collegiate level used their court presence to drum up awareness on political issues. Last year, both university presidents of La Salle and Ateneo wrote a memo addressed to the public urging them to wear black during the school’s match in the UAAP. Although not everyone did so, it was recognized as a sign of solidarity protesting human rights violations. It was held at the time when President Duterte was considering burying the remains of the late president Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Three years ago, the UP Pep Squad incorporated the PRIDE spirit to show their support for the LGBT community in their dance routine for the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. And back in 2009, La Salle and Ateneo once again showed love for the late President Cory Aquino at the time of her death by creating a sea of yellow at the Araneta Coliseum instead of its usual green and blue for its much anticipated rival matchup.

Some if not most of these acts, especially nowadays are looked down upon by the public. Nowadays, there are still some people who believe that politics should not be mixed with sports. Just taking the recent act by the Babble Battalion as an example, we could easily see through social media how some people think that sports personalities should leave politicking to the men in suits (or barong in some case). Also recently, Jamele Hill, an ESPN sportscaster posted a series of tweets saying President Trump is a white supremacist. This eventually prompted the White House to release a statement saying that Ms. Hill’s act was a “fireable offense” thus hinting to ESPN that she should be booted out.

Indeed, keeping politics in sports has been and still is a polarizing issue in our society. I see the point of those people who agree to keep those two separated since sports is a form of entertainment and discussing politics through it just makes it less interesting. Just take Manny Pacquiao for example, every Filipino loved the guy as he won championship belts after another and then once he stepped in the halls of the Senate, he instantly became a reviled persona.

But lets face it, politics involves everyone. Especially today when we have social media to find information and voice out our opinions about it, its inevitable that sports will touch on that area. Using sports as a platform for political discourse isn’t new. The 2006 film Glory Road showed how back in 1966, sports was already a medium of making political stands. The film is based on a true story about the events leading to the 1966 NCAA Men’s Basketball. Texas Western College coach, Don Haskins wanted to create a formidable team to compete in the collegiate league and ended up having seven black and five white athletes. Eventually all of his starting men were the black athletes, who at that time were victims of discrimination. At the beginning, the basketball community looked down upon them and even became victims of hate crimes like having their hotel rooms vandalized and even getting beat up. Eventually the team got their fighting spirits back and won the NCAA finals, earning the respect that they much deserved.

At the end of the day, I can’t think of a time in our future that politics will never be a part of sports. To those people who think otherwise, I ask all of you: why are condemning these individuals who stand up against the wrongs that are happening in our society? Why don’t we let their voices be heard? Why do they have to conform to the idea of letting the government officials be in charge of politicking and athletes and sportsmen just stay within the hard court?

We’ve had enough of bullies in every form. I urge everyone to speak up and stand firm on what they believe in. The world doesn’t need another conformist.

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