It is nearly impossible to separate sports from politics although Olympic Charter discourages athletes from using sports for political messaging.
During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach further emphasised on this when he said:
“It is very clear the Games cannot be used as a stage for political demonstrations however good the cause may be … the IOC will take, if necessary, individual decisions based on individual cases.”
Athletes, who have taken up activism to highlight injustice, have seen themselves being ostracized and even kicked out of the sport by the powers to be.
One of the rare cases that this has not happened yet is to American football co-captain Megan Rapinoe, who has constantly used her sports to raise her concerns on LGBTQ issues.
Not so for Colin Kaepernick, who protested against the injustice of the Black community by kneeling during the national anthem. He failed to get a new contract to play football again.
American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised black gloved fists to protest similar causes at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, were thrown out of the Olympics.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of basketball’s iconic former stars, had this to say recently:
“What love-it-or-leave-it ‘patriots’ angry with athletes who protest don’t understand is we aren’t insulting the country, but focusing attention on those who don’t live up to its promises”
Sports organisations including the IOC have sought to curb athletes activism by implementing rules to separate sport from politics.
While the sports leaders, at times leaned on by powerful politicians, censure the athletes for expressing their personal political views, nothing much can be done if it was the fans, who take up the mantle.
So it was no surprise that that the unpopular American president Donald Trump was booed by a large section of spectators during Game five of the World Series between Houston Astros and Washington at the Nationals Park.
The issues of sports fans “disrespecting” the office of the presidency was raised by those unhappy with the show of displeasure against Trump’s policies.
This is not the first time that politicians have been booed at events nor was it the first time it has happened to a politician.
Trump was also booed at another sporting event, despite not being at the venue. The crowd at Providence Park erupted in noisy boos for the president during halftime at the National Women’s Soccer League game between the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage in April.
Even before Trump was elected, he did not have it any better. He was also booed by fans at the US Open soon after he had announced his presidency run.
Should fans be stopped from expressing their displeasure against a politician during a sporting event?
After all sports fans do jeer their own teams when they do not play well, they boo at their opponents, regardless of how good they are and they heckle the match referees and umpires if their decisions does not favour their team.
Do politicians deserve to be on a different pedestal just because they hold high ranking positions?
Many politicians like many sports administrators fail to understand that they have been elected by the citizens or members to serve and not to be adulated and adored without question.
Politicians are heckled during non-sporting events. Protests are made against politicians on the streets and during major international events. People take it to the social media to say their piece on politics and politicians. Movies are made and dramas are staged to highlight political issues.
So why should activism during sports be frowned upon?
Politicians cannot be cordoned off from sports fans. It has never been separate from sports and would continue to be so.
In Malaysia, the Datin Rosmah Mansor, wife of the then Malaysian Prime Minister was booed by spectators during the prize presentation of the men’s singles winners at the 2016 Malaysian Open badminton championships.
Even Russian strongman Vladimir Putin was booed during a martial arts event.
In Australia, it is almost a tradition with their politicians including their prime ministers being put in such situations and them taking it all in their strides.
While athletes are being stopped from expressing themselves with the strict stance of being apolitical, fans cannot be stopped from doing the same.
And if politicians or sports administrators, cannot stand the heat, they should be watching sports at home on television surrounded by those who adore them.