Progressive sportswriter Dave Zirin made the case for the United States taking part in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia in an interview with Bill Moyers on Friday.
“I’m horrified by not just the laws, but some of the attendant violence that’s taking place in Russia against the LGBT community and even their allies and supporters,” Zirin told Moyers. “I’m not for a boycott, because I think first of all the athletes themselves are going to be primed to go over there and make a statement when they’re in Russia.”
Zirin, who writes for The Nation, argued that athletes who engage in civil activism during a sporting event has more impact than boycotting, and mentioned a conversation he had with U.S. sprinter John Carlos, who famously did the “Black Power salute” along with teammate Tommie Smith on the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
“I said, should people go over there and protest or should they stay home?” Zirin recounted. “And he said, ‘Well, if I’d stayed home, no one would ever have heard what I had to say. And who would remember that I stayed home today? But people remember that I went and I said my piece.’ So I think you’ve got to give people the chance to say their piece.”
Zirin did concede the difficulty in being an activist in pro sports, since the desire for games to be devoid of politics resonates not only with fans, but with franchise owners.
“I think owners tend to be politically on the right wing of the spectrum,” Zirin explained. “And when they say — and when a lot of their friends in the sports media say — sports and politics shouldn’t mix, what they’re really saying is sports and a certain kind of politics shouldn’t mix. Because when it comes to the politics of things like militarism and corporatism, those politics are blaring at a typical game.”
Watch Moyers’ interview with Zirin, posted on Friday, below.