Sport as Part of our Society

It is commonly said that sport and politics do not mix, and some go even further and claim that sport and politics should not mix. But at the same time we normally see sport, and particular sport clubs, as representing the values, history, and culture of our society. The late German sociologist Ulrich Beck once said that the political, economical, and cultural {and here comes sport} spheres that were distinctly separated in modernity have now their lines blurred in reflexive modernity. For him it is impossible to distinguish one from another as political decisions have economic and cultural repercussions, and similarly cultural changes reverberate on the other spheres.

But why am I talking about politics, society and culture in this blog post?

Yesterday some parts of Brazilian society were shocked by a decision of a judge in the state of Santa Catarina regarding the rape of a young woman, and especially this new distinct form of victim blaming where it was argued (the leaked video of the trial contains very disturbing sentences and ideas) by the defense attorney that the rapist did not had the intention to rape. And this decision and the leaked audio had reverberations across Brazilian society and sports were not imune to it.

It was very important to see how some athletes and sport clubs responded in unison outcry regarding this decision, especially in a country like Brazil where misogyny is endemic and runs in the veins of a lot of people. Sport clubs and athletes took to social media and expressed the ultimate support for the victim as we can see below in a tweet from SC Internacional – a football club in the neighbouring state of Rio Grande do Sul.

In a way what those sport clubs and athletes did was not just to show their humanity and compassion for a victim of a crime, but also to make a political statement as the President of the country – Jair Bolsonaro – is a well known misogynist who once said in front of the cameras that he would not rape another parliamentarian because she was not worth it – she was not beautiful enough (see news here; and video here).

Coming back to the initial point made in this post, if sport and particularly sport clubs and athletes represent the values, history, culture and tradition of our society then it is imperative that they position themselves on those issues. Being silent might condone attitudes and behaviours like that, ultimately reinforcing injustices that are sedimented on centuries of racist, mysoginist, and ableist practices.

Maybe, then, a better analogy to sociologically imagine the arrangements of cultural, political and economical spheres in our current times is to think of them clearing rather than blurring. We need to clearly know that our political decisions – or even our silence – do have repercussions economically and socially. That our individual cultural consumption practices – like having a more sustainable and greener lifestyle – can have economical and political repercussions for everyone.

And of course, that sport clubs, athletes and sport in general do have political responsibilities if they are really part of the social fabric of our cultural lives.

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