For now, the world of sports looks beautiful, and the future bright
A responsible world, one where the safety of players and spectators is of paramount significance. A compassionate world, one where famous athletes join hands to fight against oppression. A brave new world where the possibilities are endless and the world stands together on every field and in every sport.
The first crowd-less Test played between England and West Indies at the Rose Bowl Cricket Stadium in Southampton, during these troubled coronavirus (Covid-19) hit times, began in a manner unlike any we have seen during the past decades. The surreal look of an international encounter, in England, without a crowd was not the only anomaly that provided gripping visuals.
Widely heralded as the triumphant return of cricket, the initial moments of the match showcased the difference in the world from its pre-coronavirus days.
As the match began, we first saw a moment of silence observed by players and support staff members of both sides on the field paying tribute to West Indies’ legendary cricketer Sir Everton Weekes along with those who have lost their lives because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
While that level of respect has been present in the sport in the past, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ logos on the collars of both teams was a political statement that was penalised in the ‘old’ pre-coronavirus days. As the players took their positions, the world watched as all individuals present inside the stadium took a knee to show solidarity for the cause against racism around the globe. Responsible, compassionate, brilliant and beautiful, the vision showed glimpses of a better tomorrow.
The world has changed. We are now seeing a world where the safety of the athletes and spectators is being given the utmost importance. We are now seeing a world where sports team are not just dressed inside corporate logos but with the rallying cries for marginalised groups. This might be a temporary phase but it speaks volumes about the potential sports hold in shifting narratives, fighting oppression and generating productive dialogue in society.
As the players and support staff on both sides took a knee, expressing solidarity with the black lives matter movement, we were reminded of penalties handed out to players who had done similar acts of defiance in the past only to be targeted by the powers above.
Moeen Ali who sported bands, with the ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Save Gaza’ logo, was penalised while the Indian team went on their merry way sporting the caps of their army which for years has been responsible for the oppression of Kashmiris in the region.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) had issued the following statement regarding Moeen’s action.
“The ICC equipment and clothing regulations do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match. Moeen Ali was told by the match referee that while he is free to express his views on such causes away from the cricket field, he is not permitted to wear the wristbands on the field of play and warned not to wear the bands again during an international match,” the statement clarified.
We lived in a world where the powerful could wear slogans and symbols that justified there aims yet the marginalised were penalised at all forums for raising their concerns. The world however seems to have changed. We will hopefully see more logos that raise the concerns of women around the world, of the plight of marginalized groups such as the Palestinians and Kashmiris, against war, for a more environmentally sustainable planet.
What is yet unknown, is whether this is the beginning of a progressive and brave new world of sports or a one-off spectacle that would revert back to corporate greed and the whims of the powerful. For now, the world of sports looks beautiful, and the future bright.