Athletes have long served as some of the most important activists. They are respected by their fans based on their performance, their work ethic, and their way of life. In turn, they have earned a platform to discuss and to highlight issues they deem important. Thus, athletes have become essential diplomats and advocates for real change.
Historically, we have seen sports serving as the platform for discussions surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. Athletics also provides the arena for athletes to talk and to demonstrate how they can be representatives of their nation - regardless of their leader or the rhetoric the party in office, stands behind.
Heading into the Winter Olympics, Lindsey Vonn, Colorado bred, ski-racer, spoke up about how she intends to represent the good in the nation. As noted in The Guardian, Vonn was quoted saying, “I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the President.” She thinks that there are currently not people in the U.S. political system that are accurately representing the United States. Thus, Vonn finds it her duty to showcase the United States in a positive light and to represent a large majority of America that does not support the narrative of the current administration.
Generally speaking, the Summer Olympics are the time when most protests take place. However, due to Trump's time in office, it is very likely that this year will see a higher rate of protests - from gay athletes to those speaking out about religion as well as those who will stand up against the inevitable comments and tweets made by President Trump. For instance, Gus Kenworthy, British-born, but born and raised in Telluride, Colorado, is a freestyle skier who is largely known as the only openly gay competitor going into the 2018 Olympics. In his recent interview with The Times, Kenworthy told them he has no interest in feigning support for the President. Further, he notes that 30 years ago he could not have come out and have been able to be successful in his sport. He sees his position in society as being a catalyst of change —using his status as an athlete to promote acceptance and equality.
Being an athlete demands respect. Athletes put in the hours, and in many aspects, their sport plays an integral part of their identity. Perhaps even more importantly, an athlete has earned the platform to speak up to what matters to them. In many cases, athletes have spoken up for humanity, for collective human rights. From Jackie Robinson to Jesse Owens, from Lindsey Vonn to Gus Kenworthy - athletes play a momentous role in creating change and in creating history.
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