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Halftime thoughts: The power outside the court

At first glance, the words sports and national elections do not go together—at all. But with the recent results of the 2020 United States (US) Elections, those words suddenly fit well together. Playing a crucial part in the voters’ turnout, LeBron James, a multi-awarded basketball player, had been very vocal in getting people to register to vote in the US. As a matter of fact, he is part of the team that created the voting rights organization, More Than A Vote, to help his fellow countrymen, specifically Black Americans, to be educated on why each vote matters. Due to this movement, a great number of Americans went out of their way and made their voices heard by exercising their right to vote.

James is just one example of an athlete who uses his voice to discuss timely and pressing issues. In fact, a lot of athletes have used their position to speak out on the injustices they see, whether it is within the realm of their sport or outside of it—they speak out. This is because we are already in the century where the age of athletes not getting involved with politics is impossible. Most international athletes at this day and age have already aired out their concerns—after all everything in this world now is political. However, is the Philippines ready for athletes who are political and outspoken? Are Filipinos ready for this brand of activism?

Growing up in the Philippines, we were taught not to go against what our elders would say and not butt in when they speak among each other. However, why should we not speak out when after all, this is the future we are talking about—a future where most of us would have to live. With the rise of different sports associations and improvement programs in the country, one would be a fool not to think that there would be no politics involved with it. Just like what I have said earlier, politics is everywhere and we owe it to ourselves to be educated when it comes to national issues. Although our athletes may be ready to speak their minds out, I highly believe that our citizens are not.

Athletes in our country are being downplayed and treated as if they do not know anything else outside their respective sport. When an athlete in our country speaks out about the maltreatment they face in their training, a loadful of comments in the social media would talk ill of them. These comments would mention how our athletes have no utang na loob to our government and it is a shame that they “smear” the reputation of our government. They are seen as the villains even if they gave pride and honor to our country. Take in the case of Hidilyn Diaz, a silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, posted on social media about how the equipment that they use to train for weightlifting go way back in the 90s. Diaz received a lot of attention—both in support of and against her comments. However, because of this post, the Philippine Sports Commission took rapid action and gave new training equipment for their team to use. Without her post, the public would have never seen or heard of the maltreatment our athletes experience.

That was just one example of how athletes use their position to speak out against the undeserved that they experience firsthand. It also showed how Filipinos are not as supportive as one would think—this is where the problem lies. With the opinion of athletes being downplayed, they are afraid to speak out, accepting the fate they have. Our Filipino athletes deserve better and if they just figure out how they can speak out, we could be seeing a replica of what James did in the US—amplified voices and a great number of voters’ turnout. Our athletes carry a huge following, most especially in the youth sector, and they could create a huge impact in our future if only they are heard and respected.

In the months to come, we will be seeing a lot of potential candidates vying for a spot in the national government. With the youth taking up the majority of the voters’ population, it is up to those with power to influence the younger generations to go out and make their voices heard. After all, it is precisely when the athletes are on top should they speak out more and educate those who admire them since they have a bigger stage to talk about these issues. Gone are the days when athletes are all about “dribbling the ball”–it is time they realize that they have more influence that would affect the future.

By Drew Beltran Acierto

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