Wokeness in Sports in a Cultural Tug-of-War


A central feature of the resurgence of progressives in our culture is the politicization of everything.  Not that long ago in Western Civilization, we sought venues in society in which to bring people together.  Athletics, for example, were an important avenue by which to emphasize shared humanity — not because of activism during the events, but because of the events themselves.  They fostered a radical acceptance because those who were presumed inferior or disfavored were treated as equals on the playing field and often excelled there.

But now, this:

The international debut of the Vatican women’s football team, which was scheduled to play in a friendly against the Vienna FC Mariahilf Saturday, was cancelled after abortion and LGBT activists disrupted the game before it began, local media reported.

According to several local media reports, players of the Viennese soccer team Mariahilf lifted their jerseys whilst the Vatican anthem was playing, displaying painted ovaries and pro-abortion messages. Activists also displayed LGBT banners on the sidelines at the venue.

The Vatican team, who had been invited to Vienna by FCM, decided not to go ahead with the June 22 match.

The reasoning for the Vatican team’s not playing has not been thoroughly explained and may deserve criticism in its turn, depending on the actual atmosphere at the event, but to invite people to a match only to take the opportunity to protest their beliefs during their anthem is an incredible insult.

To be sure, some might think the insult justified and the statement worthwhile, but that is part of the problem.  Sports should be an opportunity to come together and remind ourselves that we are all human beings and can find common ground.  That’s not so true now that the “tolerance” crowd feels empowered.

This isn’t a one-off event, either.  Turn from Italy to Australia, where a rugby star who was fired for tweeting Christian scripture has been blocked by GoFundMe from collecting money to help with legal bills.  Writes Rod Dreher:

Now, Go Fund Me can run itself as it wishes. It’s a private company. And [Israel] Folau, who is wealthy, can certainly be criticized for asking supporters to pay for his legal bills. All of that is beside the point. The point is that because of LGBT, traditional Christians and other social conservatives are being stigmatized, pushed to the margins, and not allowed to participate in ordinary economic life, unless they have the Mark of Wokeness upon their foreheads (so to speak).

Those who wish to defend such marginalization on the grounds of social justice (or whatever) are free to do so, but this is clearly the offensive of a conquering force, not of tolerance.  As such, it represents a reversion to mankind’s natural state of tribalism and bigotry, not the advance of civilization.

The short reign of the Roman emperor Julian in the 360s comes to mind, as Edward Gibbon related it.  Attempting to salvage the traditional paganism of the empire from the recently ascendant Christianity, the Julian regime sought to edge Christians out of any role in education.  Meanwhile, some Christians took the opportunity of impositions to proclaim persecution, perhaps beyond what their experience actually justified.

And thus it goes in the complex tug-of-war of humanity.  The threads of history crumple into knots, and none of us should assume that we would have been on this side or that side in some prior era.  The experience of exclusion motivates revenge more often than acceptance when the rope whipsaws, and it’s all too easy to declare that something we don’t like is actually objectively intolerable.  We should strive to overcome that impulse as individuals and as a society.