From Mbappe to Muhammad Ali, when sports stars become politicized

Footballer Kylian Mbappe has renewed attention on the social role of sports stars, after refusing to be photographed with the France national team.

Reports have it that the 23-year-old Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) striker has said he will not take part in a scheduled photo shoot with the world champions on Tuesday until image rights agreements are finalized. not “modified”.

The footballer sees online betting as a danger to his young fans and was frustrated at being linked to fast food which fuels obesity, French newspaper Le Parisien said.

As Mbappe is widely regarded as one of the best and most marketable players in the world, the potential financial consequences were huge, especially as there are only two months left before France defend their title in Qatar. .

So it was no big surprise that a deal was reached later on Tuesday. The striker gave up his position and also took part in the filming following a statement from the French Football Federation that they would review their decision on image rights.

Still, Mbappe isn’t the first sports star to dabble in politics – and he certainly won’t be the last.

In June 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo knocked two bottles of Coca-Cola off his table during a UEFA Euro 2020 press conference, asking for “water” instead.

The Portuguese captain, an advocate of healthy eating, was visibly flustered when he saw the black soft drinks posed in front of him, sweeping them quickly out of the camera frame.

Ronaldo’s actions have left the internet in a frenzy, flooding social media with memes, parody videos and (at times) witty jokes.

Shortly after, Coca-Cola saw its share price fall by 1.6% and its market value plunge from 241 to 237 billion euros – a drop of 4 billion euros – although this breach was short-lived and the soft drink giant recovered quickly.

Coca-Cola – a cup sponsor – said “everyone is entitled to their beverage preferences” with “different tastes and needs”.

Just a day after Ronaldo’s move, French footballer Paul Pogba moved a bottle of Heineken beer out of sight ahead of a press conference.

A devout Muslim, the Juventus player hid the bottle of non-alcoholic Heineken 0.0 after being named man of the match in a 1-0 win over Germany.

Former English Premier League player Papiss Cisse also took a stand when he played for Newcastle United and protested his payday loan sponsor over his religious beliefs.

‘Black Power’

But this is far from a new phenomenon.

Long before the era of social media, Muhammad Ali fought his way to becoming world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964, declaring “I am the greatest”.

The boxer and activist was one of the most famous and recognizable athletes of his day, having become a Muslim and giving up his birth name Cassius Clay as a “slave name”.

At the time, the United States was involved in the devastating Vietnam War. Ali was drafted into the army, but refused to enlist.

He took a stand based on his religious beliefs and his deep ethical opposition to war.

The conscientious objector was quickly arrested and later convicted of draft evasion, cementing his status as an icon of the 1960s counterculture generation.

Authorities stripped Ali of his title and his fight license was suspended.

He didn’t fight for three years.

It’s one of the most famous images in sports history: two black American athletes atop a medal platform raising their arms in the air with clenched fists.

They are Tommie Smith and John Carlos, respectively first and third in the 200 meter sprint at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.

After winning the race, the duo picked up their medals and stood on the platform for the national anthem. When the Stars and Stripes began, Carlos and Smith gave a “Black Power Salute”.

They were loudly booed as they left the platform, despite Smith breaking the men’s world record.

Carlos and Smith were protesting the treatment of black Americans and other minorities at the time of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Both athletes were kicked out of the games, lost their medals and were widely criticized for their actions, although the legacy of their protest lives on today.

Mix politics on and off the pitch

The political stunts of sports stars still remain controversial.

While playing for PSG, Idrissa Gueye skipped a game in May, after players were asked to wear shirts with rainbow numbers to show their support for equality and inclusion LGBT+.

Gueye missed the match for “personal reasons” according to his manager at the time, Mauricio Pochettino. He also missed the equivalent game the previous season.

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the Senegalese player’s actions, tweeting “homophobia, transphobia, biphobia strikes, discriminates, rejects. Everyone is free to be themselves, to be loved and to love”.

In 2021, Ivory Coast footballer Wilfried Zaha said he would stop kneeling, becoming one of the first English Premier League players not to take part in the anti-racism gesture.

The Crystal Palace striker has instead pledged to “stand up straight” on his return from injury, believing protest is no longer enough.

“I think the meaning behind it all becomes something that we’re just doing now,” he said. “It’s not enough. I’m not going to take the knee.

Zaha, who said her mother made her donate 10% of her earnings to charity since she was 16, also suggested that racism among black gamers continues to suffer online, suggesting the protests were ineffective .

“We try to say we’re equal but those things don’t work,” he said. “Unless there’s a change, don’t tell me. Unless some action happens, I don’t want to hear about it.

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