To nobody’s surprise, there was no shortage of topics to write about this year. From domestic violence in the NFL, to the lack of accountability seen in McGill Athletics, or even the way in which sports commentators use racial stereotypes to describe athletes’ performance, it is clear that sports culture has a lot of problems, many of which escape criticism. The sheer variety of issues shows that sports are inherently political. While they can be tools for empowerment and community building, sports can also perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and more forms of oppression.
Take, for example, the way McGill Athletics chose not to make consent training mandatory for athletes, despite the allegations of sexual assault against three McGill football players last year. True or false, these allegations prove the existence of a systemic problem that McGill, through its complacency, is unavoidably a part of. Another example of this complacency is the failure of McGill Athletics to change the name of their men’s varsity teams, despite widespread criticism. This name is a racial slur rooted in colonial violence, and by refusing to address and change the name, McGill is failing to take a stand against this racism.
We see the same trends in professional sports. The NFL still does not have a concrete sexual assault policy, consequently classifying instances of sexual assault as isolated incidents, and refusing to acknowledge it as a systemic issue. The rhetoric surrounding athletes of colour, such as Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman, shows that sports writers and commentators can spew racist and sexist language–including, among other things, describing such players as ‘thugs. They escape without much criticism from mainstream media and are coupled by a lack of concrete action afterwards.
Sports’ problems need to be recognized, and the culture needs to change. It’s not all feel-good stories and shiny trophies – the level of apathy surrounding these issues in the world of sports is part of the problem. These injustices are real, and they need our attention. In order to make a difference, we need to wake up and start challenging these problems, instead of running away and burying our heads in a pile of our favourite team’s memorabilia. So, before cheering on your favourite team, whatever sport it may be, take a second to think about what you can do to actively combat this problem – whether it is speaking up on a blog or boycotting certain teams or figures within the sports community. Make your voice heard. If you’re not part of the solution, you are definitely a part of the problem.
Note: In order to bring attention to the racist and colonial history of the McGill men’s varsity team’s name, the Sports section of The McGill Daily has chosen to no longer use the R*dmen name in the section.