In recent weeks, Ukraine has been embroiled in a political crisis that forced former president Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia, who have accordingly sent soldiers into the southern portion of their neighbors known as Crimea. While this is not a section to be talking about politics, two U.S. Senators have taken to intertwining sports and politics, which is utterly wrong.
Senators Mark Kirk and Dan Coats wrote to FIFA President Sepp Blatter to encourage him to suspend Russia from the soccer governing body, removed the country from 2014 World Cup and to strip their rights to host the 2018 World Cup. Their reasoning for this request is primarily based on FIFA rules that ban discrimination against another country based on politics or ethnic origin.
On the surface, it would certainly appear that banning Russia based on this would be well-timed, but it would be a foolish decision that goes against what sports are supposed to be about.
One of the best parts about big events such as the Olympics and World Cup is that politics are set aside and that athletes are rewarded for their lifelong work and dedication to their craft. These aren’t athletes who are being paid massive amounts of money to compete in these events (though they could do so with endorsements), but ones who are simply giving their blood, sweat and soul to win for millions of people looking on back home.
Showing that these athletes can be civil and yet dignified on a world stage amongst nations that may not agree philosophically is part of what makes the events stand out as a non-partisan, and really provides it with the opportunity to be world-mending. For those who are against playing against any nation that the U.S. does not agree with, where are the letters to ban Iran from the 2014 World Cup?
Historical precedents have shown that a major country sitting out big events does nothing other than hurt the athletes and fans, as U.S. President Jimmy Carter explicitly displayed by having American athletes sit out the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Not a single one of the athletes had anything to do with the Cold War back then, and none of the 23 men who will make up Russia’s 2014 World Cup roster have had a part in the country occupying Ukraine today.
Nobody in their right mind could reasonably sit back and agree with what Russia President Vladimir Putin is doing right now in the Ukraine, but as Ghandi once said,”an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” In this instance, those that Senators Kirk and Coats are attempting to harm are the very people that should be applauded, which should not and can not be accepted.