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Sports and politics: controversies and boycotts

Sports and politics are two different domains, but they often intersect and influence each other. Sports are supposed to be a uniting factor among people irrespective of their political views, but sometimes political events create controversies in sports. In this article, we will discuss some of the most significant controversies and boycotts in the intersection of sports and politics.


Sports and politics have always been intertwined. Sports have the power to bring people together and create a sense of unity. However, political events can create significant controversies in the sports world. Sportspeople have often used their platforms to raise awareness about political issues, and at times, it has led to boycotts of sporting events.

Controversies in Sports and Politics

The Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics

During the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City, two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists in the air during the national anthem. They did this to protest against racial inequality and discrimination against black people in the United States. This act was seen as a political statement and resulted in Smith and Carlos being banned from the Olympic village.

The Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics

During the 1972 Olympics in Munich, members of the Palestinian group Black September attacked the Israeli Olympic team. The attack resulted in the death of eleven members of the Israeli team, five terrorists, and a West German police officer. The incident caused international outrage and resulted in several countries boycotting the Olympic Games.

Apartheid in South Africa and Sports Boycotts

During the apartheid era in South Africa, many countries boycotted sporting events held in the country. The boycott was a response to the South African government’s policy of racial segregation and discrimination against black people. The boycotts had a significant impact on South African sports and helped put pressure on the government to end apartheid.

The 1980 Moscow Olympics Boycott

In 1980, the United States and several other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics. The boycott was in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott resulted in many athletes being denied the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Boycott

The Soviet Union and several other communist countries boycotted the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. The boycott was seen as a response to the United States’ boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The boycott resulted in many talented athletes being denied the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

The Kosovo Conflict and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

During the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona, several countries refused to recognize the newly formed Republic of Yugoslavia. This resulted in the Yugoslavian team being banned from the Olympic Games. The boycott was a response to the ongoing conflict in Kosovo.

The Colin Kaepernick Protest in the NFL

Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player, protested against police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. The protest sparked a national conversation and resulted in Kaepernick being ostracized from the league. The protest also brought attention to the intersection of sports and politics and highlighted the power of athletes to raise awareness about social issues.

The Israel-Palestine Conflict and Football Boycotts

The Israel-Palestine conflict has led to several boycotts of Israeli teams by football clubs and national teams. These boycotts are often seen as a form of protest against Israel’s policies towards Palestine. The boycotts have sparked controversy and debate about the role of sports in political conflicts.

The Qatar 2022 World Cup Controversies

The 2022 FIFA World Cup scheduled to be held in Qatar has been controversial due to allegations of human rights violations and corruption. There have been calls for a boycott of the event by some human rights organizations and political leaders. The controversy has put the spotlight on the intersection of sports, politics, and human rights.

The Hong Kong Protests and NBA Controversy

The 2019 Hong Kong protests led to a controversy in the NBA. Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support for the protesters, which led to a backlash from the Chinese government and Chinese basketball fans. The controversy highlighted the influence of China in the global sports industry and raised questions about the role of sports in promoting free speech and human rights.

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