Dave Zirin

One has to hark back to 1968 in Mexico City, when thousands of students and workers marched against the Olympics, to find a sports-related demonstration that compares to the size and militancy of the mass anti-World Cup/Olympic protests taking place in Brazil. As in Mexico City, thousands of people in Brazil took to the streets — and outside of stadiums hosting Confederations Cup matches — raising slogans that connect the spending and austerity that surround these mega-events to a much deeper rot in the nation’s democratic institutions.
In February last year, the stalking and murder of Trayvon Martin affected pro athletes — particularly African-American athletes — in a way that perhaps can be best described as intimate. Players like Carmelo Anthony saw the case far more clearly than George Zimmerman’s prosecutor: it was a racist murder and Trayvon, condemned to death for Living While Black, could have been them or their children.
I travelled to Brazil last September to investigate preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. It was painfully evident that the social disruption of hosting two mega-events in rapid succession would be profound. Everyone with whom I spoke in the community of social movements agreed that these sports extravaganzas were going to leave major collateral damage. Everyone agreed that the spending priorities for stadiums, security, and all attendant infrastructure were monstrous given the health and education needs of the Brazilian people.
Mark Twain's maxim that "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme" is echoing in the streets of Istanbul. The echo is heard in everything that makes Turkey resemble a sequel to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that toppled assumed President-for-Life Hosni Mubarak. Turkey and Egypt are of course two very different countries with different leaders, different political systems and different histories. But the revolt of the highly intense, usually apolitical "ultra" football-fan clubs must be noted.
Hearing the news made me feel like I'd accidentally walked into a wind tunnel. For as long as I had written about this issue and as many times as I had said in recent years that this will happen in a matter of months if not weeks, it still hit me like a triple shot of espresso cut with a teaspoon of Adderall. Thanks to the courage of 34-year-old NBA veteran Jason Collins, we can no longer repeat endlessly that no active male athlete in North America has ever come out of the closet.
The dead. The injured. The anguish. All the result of bombs that were set to explode at the finish line just over four hours after the start of the Boston Marathon. There will be time to mourn. We will mourn the dead and injured. I also mourn the Boston Marathon, and how it's now been brutally disfigured. The Boston Marathon matters in a way other sporting events simply do not. It started in 1897, inspired by the first modern marathon, which took place at the inaugural 1896 Olympics. It attracts 500,000 spectators and over 20,000 participants from 96 countries.
Never have I witnessed a gap between the mainstream media and public opinion quite like the first 24 hours since the death of Margaret Thatcher. While both the press and President Barack Obama were uttering tearful remembrances, thousands took to the streets of the UK and beyond to celebrate. Immediately, there were strong condemnations of what were called "death parties," described as "tasteless", "horrible," and "beneath all human decency""
The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 5 will mean unseemly celebration on the right and unending debate on the left. Both reflect the towering legacy of Chavismo and how it challenged the global free market orthodoxy of the Washington consensus. Less discussed will be that the passing of Chavez will also provoke unbridled joy in the corridors of power of Major League Baseball (MLB).
A professional athlete; a home with an arsenal of firearms; a dead young woman involved in a long-term relationship with her killer. In November, her name was Kasanda Perkins and the man who shot her was Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Now her name is Reeva Steenkamp, killed by Olympic sprinter and double amputee Oscar “the Blade Runner” Pistorius.
If you want to understand why Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has declared a “state of emergency” or if you want to understand why the country’s defence minister warned on January 29 of “the collapse of the state”, you first need to understand the soccer fan clubs in Egypt - otherwise known as the “ultras” - and the role they played in the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Pages

Subscribe to Dave Zirin