Politics and Nationalism in Sport

Politics and Nationalism in Sport


In this lecture we want to review the
article that talked about politics and nationalism in sport. So as we begin this
we have to ask the questions why have Americans come to expect
patriotic tributes before sporting event? Is it because it’s something
we’ve just always done or does it have a deeper meaning meaning? In all reality
could any of us even imagine going to an athletic contest without the national
anthem being being played. Now the article you were required to read points
out that most people look at the anthem as being something we do because it’s
patriotic, but if the anthem is not played or if someone challenges the
standard of the ritual it suddenly becomes very political. The Colin
Kaepernick situation actually got the President of the United States involved
in the controversy you can’t get more– political than that! So as we look at the
relationship between sport and politics the article pointed out five specific
relationships: how sport has been used by elected officials as a political
resource, has how sport has worked its way into the language of politics, how
sport becomes a means of fostering national identity, how sport has
dramatized the effects of globalization, and how sport has been used as a site of
political resistance. Now in this lecture we’re going to focus on relationships
one, two, three, and five we’re not going to look at the effects of globalization.
But before we start going into the contents of the of the article in review,
let’s look at a couple videos and let’s look at the fact that perhaps is it
possible that this has become too commercialized.
So in the first video let’s look at why we stand for the flag. Well there was a
special expression of patriotism by professional rodeo, but let’s look at
another aspect of this I think we all felt that patriotic pull as we watch
that video but let’s take a look at this video that talks bout the commercialization Well that
kind of gives us a nice synopsis of the really how polarize this subject has
become in the United States. So let’s dive a little deeper into this article
and the first step that we need to take is to differentiate between the terms
politic and political. The author defines political as the unavoidable conflicts
that are inherent in human relations and politics on the other hand encompass the
practices discourse and institutions in and through which we seek to address
those conflicts and establish order. So we have used sport as a political
resource for years, in 1971 we sent the American table
tennis team to China to compete against the Chinese. And this was described as
ping-pong diplomacy, in this example President Nixon recognized that sport
could be a valuable resource in enhancing the relationship between the
two countries. So let’s watch a short video and look at this aspect of
American history. So that basically gives us a little background of how we use sport in
in this instance to break a communication barrier that had existed
for two decades. Now while this ping-pong diplomacy was seen as a positive use of
sport as a political resource the 1980 Summer Olympics resulted in a much
different reaction. President Jimmy Carter declared that the United States
would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the
Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and this presidential action
was not received well at all. I well remember that era and it was we were so
concerned that this was so unfair to our athletes that had worked so hard to get
to this point in their professional careers or amateur careers I should say,
at that point. But we can go even further back in history to 1910 when William
Howard Taft became the first president to throw the ceremonial first pitch of
the baseball season. And this has a very special meaning because baseball has
historically been referenced as our national pastime. We have seen
presidents since that point step onto the baseball field to make different
types of messages or communication to Americans. We have seen sport used as a
resource in wartime as well after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The
baseball commissioner asked President Roosevelt ff the
1942 season should be suspended. Roosevelt responded that he felt it
would be best for the country if baseball kept going. This communicated the president’s belief that baseball was a venue to communicate
strong messages about strength and community. So let’s watch a short video
about the president’s green-light letter to continue the season and the results
of that. So there we see how we have used baseball as a resource in in
wartime. Now we also want to look at sport and the language of politics and
war. We’ve seen political use or leaders use sport metaphors for years and the
article related metaphors from horse-racing like front runner and
longshot. We hear those all the time during political events like the
primaries or the presidential elections and football has also long served as a
metaphorical base for the values of teamwork unity and respect for authority,
but the author points out in the article that there’s also a concern with the use
of football metaphors. Football is also commonly used to describe the
military and/or war terms like in the trench,
blitzes, they’ve produced a seamless relationship between the game and
warfare. And you might wonder why is this even an issue, well the article does
point out that using these type of sport metaphors really risk equating good
citizenship with good fanship. Now we also want to talk about sport and
national identity. The term nation probably brings many
thoughts to mind but what does it really mean? Is it a landmass determined by its
borders or is it a collective community of like-minded individuals? We use this
term rather loosely, in in fact we can also use it to describe an alliance of
sport fans, the NDSU faithful the bison nation. It can also be described as an
imagined community tied together by shared histories myths and ideology.
Let’s look at a direct quote from Rowe, he says “by imagining that America
fosters a particular kind of community, a national identity begins to emerge. Sport
is especially important in this process because it’s shared experience makes it
one of the few institutions capable of developing a collective consciousness.” So
certainly we do take sport and we do relate it to our national identity. And
then finally sport and resistance– we are all aware of the Kaepernick kneeling
issue and we’ll look more closely at that in a later lecture. But this isn’t
the first time the world of sport has seen an individual use sport as a
platform to craft a message. We can look back to the 1940s when Jackie Robinson
became the first African American to play major league baseball in the modern
era. This was a movement in resistance to the social inequities of the time; or how
about in the 1960s when Muhammad Ali used his status as a boxer to resist
racism in war when he refused to submit to the draft Arthur Ashe used his
celebrity as a tennis player to criticize the apartheid government of
South Africa. And Billie Jean King did the same as she
fought for women’s equality. And as the author described the signature image of
protests came out the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City when the gold and bronze
medalists in the 200 meters Tommie Smith and John Carlos used the medal ceremony
to protest racial inequities in the United States by bowing their heads and
raising fists clad in black gloves during the playing of the anthem. Now as
we look at this last event I’m guessing many of you can see the similarities
between what we’re seeing today and what happened in 1968. Athletic activism is
nothing new but it went silent in later years as the electronic media expanded
and we saw a huge rise in the monetary wealth that high profile athletes
experienced. We have seen athletes play for the money and not express themselves
politically in this modern era. So in conclusion it should be clear that
there is a clear connection between sport and politics and as David Ziran
points out however you slice and dice it politics are an enduring and constant
historic presence in sport.

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