The US and The Olympics: Worse Than You Think

The Olympics are the world stage for countries’ most prided athletes. Superhuman-like individuals train their entire lives to earn a spot at the games, and when they do, their home country’s heart is in their hands. The Olympics however are also dark in nature as they foster an environment in which people from the host country are pushed into poverty and displaced. Natives and visitors alike are forced into human trafficking to entertain wealthy guests, and humans are overtly exploited at their own expense. The problems exist on such a scale that it would be impossible to discuss the many negative aspects of the impact of the games on innocent people. And though citizens of host countries are typically focused on, athletes too, are exploited at their detriment. This is particularly true with children representing countries with considerably ‘rogue’ or corrupt regimes, however, The United States is just as guilty.

Thailand’s favorite sport, Muay Thai has a 700 year old history, but it’s only getting darker. The sport fosters brutal fighting as fighters are, by the rules, allowed to use virtually every part of their body. Legs, arms, knees, and fists, are all tools in the vicious ring. Thailand is attempting to enter the Olympic games with Muay Thai as a sport, however, children are a crucial part of this endeavour as it requires training from birth. The children fighters are typically under the age out 16, participate in ameature games, and suffer tremendous injuries, with brain damage as a somewhat prevalent consequence.

Chinese participants are also subject to despair both during and after their participation in the Olympics. These young individuals, sometimes younger than even 16, are pressured into extreme measures such as performance enhancing drugs, and are said to be “brutalized”. According to The Nation, “Executive Director of the American Swim Coaches Association John Leonard called Shiwen’s world-record 400-meter individual medley swim “disturbing.” He is also continuing to describe her closing freestyle leg of 58.68 seconds as “impossible.”” which of course is reflective of severe practices that are to the detriment of the athlete and the benefit of the adult in charge of them. Additionally, China’s state-run system of athletics makes for a hostile and coercive environment in which children’s inherent rights are abused and ignored entirely. Many believe that China’s extreme treatment toward their athlete children is merely a means to assert China’s dominance economically, further using medal counts to show their power, “China is the chief economic rival in the world to the United States. Just like during the cold war, the Olympics have become a proxy war where “medal counts” connote more than bragging rights but are a comment on the health of a nation.” The lack of regard for children for the bettering of the country’s economic status (at the children’s expense) is in and of itself an unethical practice- especially because the Olympics enables the problem.

The issues seen in both Thailand and China make a case against the absurdly cruel treatment toward children, yet, those countries only represent a small portion of the problem. The United States, even in its ‘let freedom ring’ glory, unfairly treats the children representing them.

Children in the United States, or any athletes participating in the Olympics, have absolutely no state subsidies (unlike China) and are thus subject to a life threatening reality: poverty. This issue is often overlooked as images of American athletes tend to glamourize the sport and all that it entails, but the problems nonetheless exist. Unfortunately, the tales of sorrow are seldom told and individuals who represent The United States and stand before crowds often face severe dilemmas upon returning from their quest as an Olympic athlete, “When we hear that swimmer Ryan Lochte’s parents are facing foreclosure on their home, or that track star Lolo Jones’s family was homeless, or that gymnast Gabby Douglas was sent from her mother in Virginia Beach to live with strangers at the age of 14, those are tales of heroism and sacrifice.” and this is just as bad as a Chinese child being forced into the sport, because suffering cannot be measured. In the United States one of the most prevalent issues that arises with young athletes is abuse from coaches. This is especially true when looking at swimming, where coaches are known to “molest young swimmers and then move from town to town, escaping criminal charges and continuing to victimize other under-aged swimmer”. Again, these children are broadcasted universally looking like kids while facing very dark and adult situations. Moreover, because these coaches move frequently from town to town, it’s all too obvious that the problem is exacerbated each time their criminal abuse is not reported.

Gymnastics in The United States are a dark hole of abuse, self harm, and hopelessness for the gymnasts themselves. Like other athletes, they are trained at the youngest age possible and their lives become the sport. For some gymnasts however, the sport becomes them and they are the ones who end up in detrimental situations. Author Joan Ryan writes, “ “What I found was a story about legal, even celebrated child abuse… Girls who broke their necks and backs. One who so desperately sought the perfect, weightless gymnastic body that she starved herself to death.” describing the extreme circumstances girls face when participating in a cut throat sport. She explains that these girls literally cut themselves with dull razors, experience broken families – and links much of this to the pressure them and their families face because of the sport.

While the world loves to critique the practices of countries like China or Russia or Thailand, they need to take a step back and take a look at the globe’s superpower – The United States. Discussed in this paper were only aspects of gymnastics and swimming on the US national front, but the abuse and detriment seen in these sports can be applied across the board. Even the most ideal athletes who proceed to have reality shows like Ryan Lochte, experience severe hardship because of the mistreatment toward them. Their medals shine on stages and they later return to a harsh reality where they must face the problems of their pasts and usually, their futures as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Is the US Olympic System as Abusive as China’s?” The Nation. N.p., 09 Aug. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

 

“Child Fighters Exposed to Exploitation” ESPN 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 21. Apr. 2016

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Homosexuality in Sports

Sports epitomize manliness. The world of professional sports hones masculinity through power, strength, and obscene amounts of testosterone. With this comes the inherent assumption that these men, who spend their days in sports arenas and fields across world, are straight. Like any other profession or world, generalizations about sexuality are never true. Thus, the world of sports is home to plenty of homosexuals, but is largely unaccepting toward homosexuality. Bill Velasco writes this perfectly, “mainstream sport media (primarily in the US often characterizes male professional athletes as being avatars of idealized masculine traits such as aggressiveness, power, assertiveness, and emphatic heterosexuality. They revel in asserting their masculinity over their opponents, and, in most cases, are more attractive to the opposite sex.”

 

The public turns to professional athletes as the macho symbols of society. We tend to think that there is nothing manlier than a bunch of men huddled around a television watching Sunday football. And while manliness and homosexuality are by no means mutually exclusive, they tend to be coupled with each other. This ‘blanket’ thinking has plagued the world of sports and those who live as both homosexuals and athletes. Homosexuality in sports has been a taboo topic since the beginning of time. A lot of this is linked to the fact that athletes travel in packs, live alongside each other in hotel rooms, and are constantly around fellow men. While many people would argue that these homosexual athletes are not necessarily thinking about their teammates sexually, the concept of a homosexual athlete is still rejected and ignored.

 

The sexual orientation of athletes is something that teams are concerned with from day one. In an interview with NPR, Stefan Fatsis stated that “One player, a tight end named Nick Kasa from the University of Colorado told a radio station in Denver that he was asked: Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?”. This of course is wrong, and speaks volumes about how wary sports teams are when they are recruiting athletes. Later in the article they discuss how players who are gay are often encouraged to fake heterosexual relationships to land a career in the NFL. Teams are concerned with their image to the point where they will harm their own players, “teams want to know how their locker room would be impacted by a gay player and what they might have to deal with if a player came out.” Unfortunately for these teams, it’s not about them, it’s about their players and the players’ well being. Luckily, some response are positive, and gay athletes who’ve come out during their professional career have received support from the public. Fatsis continues, “the support for Rogers has been unlike anything I’ve seen in sports: a flood of tweets from players, even a video made by coaches and players for the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer.” One can only hope that all athletes facing sexual discrimination can see the manner in which Rogers was supported, and hopefully feel safe enough to be themselves among their teams and around the public.

 

Leigh Steinberg of the Huffington Post, who has spent a large portion of her career representing gay athletes writes, “For most of the 40 years I’ve represented professional athletes, homosexuality has been a frightening taboo. This is the reason that virtually no team sport athletes have ever “come out” during their careers. At one point in the 90s when I was asked whether I would encourage a gay client to announce his sexual preference publicly, my response was “not on your life.”” This speaks largely to how intense the taboo was: one’s sexuality is something that looms over them constantly–gay or straight–and the notion of one’s sexuality being so chastised is sad to say the least. Additionally, the emotional and psychological repercussions of being silenced by a massive industry is something that few of us to begin to understand. Surely athletes have rejected participating on major teams or even walked off major teams to merely live a life in which they can be free. Steinberg’s experience with the taboos concerning homosexuality are also reflective of the industry’s awareness in their overt discrimination and silencing of homosexual athletes, further exacerbating the ‘wrongness’ of the situation.

 

In all areas of society, times are changing, and we are becoming more receptive to those who defy traditional stereotypes. Although a sports environment may appear to be a peculiar environment for a gay man, one of the main elements of being on a sports team, is teamwork. Steinberg states, “They train together, bleed together, and watch each others backs. The real test of acceptance of a teammate is reliability and courage under pressure, that is what earns respect in team sports” and this notion should only be seen further in locker rooms across the country. Any discrimination against a teamwork on the basis of sexuality and is inherently wrong, thus, the discrimination toward a homosexual should be as untolerated as discrimination against a black teammate.

 

Though progress has been made, there is still tremendous room for improvement in how homosexuality is viewed in sports. ‘The battle for gay rights’ is one that will continue to be extremely difficult. Though many athletes in professional sport history have been gay, the ideal straight, macho man is still a figure that is worshipped, especially by Western society. In the United States, athletes may be lucky enough to play for a city that is okay with their sexuality, and perhaps even supports them, however, gender testing for events like the Olympics is still a reality that human beings have had to undergo. The emphasis on sexuality in sports is unfair, because while sports figures are viewed as heroes, they still deserve the courtesy as a human being first. The atmosphere surrounding homosexuals in sports is still tense, but the tensions will loosen as we become more familiar with the various types of individuals around us. Fighting the taboo of homosexuality in sports can only be done with the cooperation of the public, as the public is the driving force in athletes’ success.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Steinberg, Leigh. “The Time Has Come for Gay Athletes.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

 

“Gay Athletes Face Discrimination In Professional Sports.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

 

“The Battle for Gay Rights in Sports.” Philstar.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.