Athletes should speak up on societal ills
What you need to know:
- There are so many ways our sportsmen and women can articulate the issues affecting society, including social media, community engagement forums, and during sports events.
- Let us never be cowed by the repercussions of the freedom of speech but be a voice of the millions of voiceless.
On a weekend in which sports enthusiasts were not starved of sporting entertainment, it was saddening that the issue of racism dominated headlines once again.
It did not make for good watching to see Brazilian winger Vinicius Jr being taunted by racist fans during Real Madrid’s match against Valencia on Sunday.
As an African and a sportsman who shares the same skin colour as him, I empathised with the frustration he must have been undergoing as he tried to practice his art and craft amidst the deafening monkey chants directed at him.
Yet, kudos to Vinicius for the way he stood up to these bullies, even going to the extent of pointing at them one by one. Even in the aftermath of the unsavoury incidents on the pitch, it is admirable how he has continued to speak out against the issue on his social media platforms, at the risk of more attacks on the Internet.
I join other sports fanatics around the globe to stand in solidarity with Vinicius and to reiterate that racism has no place in the modern game, be it whatever discipline. This is not what sports is meant to be…it is supposed to be the glue that binds us all together as one people of the world who are all children of the Almighty.
Vinicius’ bravery in confronting racist fans is an example to the modern athlete— including here in Kenya— of the need to be unequivocal about what you stand for. No athlete should ever be afraid to speak out on societal ills or issues and to advocate for a change to the same.
Just recently, during the Kip Keino Classic, we had the privilege of hosting the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games 200 metres bronze medallist John Carlos of the United States who is famous for putting up the black power sign when receiving his medal at the podium.
This political gesture was in response to the injustices that were being meted out against African Americans at that time.
Speaking to him, Carlos said that sportspersons should not keep quiet in the face of injustices in society, no matter how risky speaking out may be. This is the same path that Vinicius has followed and so should every other athlete, including in Kenya.
There are so many ways our sportsmen and women can articulate the issues affecting society, including social media, community engagement forums, and during sports events.
Let us never be cowed by the repercussions of the freedom of speech but be a voice of the millions of voiceless.
Korir is the chairman of Athletics Kenya’s Nairobi branch. [email protected]