Usman Khawaja, Indian wrestlers, Muhammad Ali: Athletes who took a stand - Hindustan Times
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Usman Khawaja, Indian wrestlers, Muhammad Ali: Athletes who took a stand

Dec 16, 2023 04:06 PM IST

Athletes have often have used their stage or name to take a stand. Here are some leading examples.

Usman Khawaja could take the heartache no more. A few days ago, the Australian batter turned his shoes into a social media platform, so to say, and scribbled out his pain on them.

Australia's Usman Khawaja made some statements which were interpreted as pro-Palestine.(AP)
Australia's Usman Khawaja made some statements which were interpreted as pro-Palestine.(AP)

“All lives are equal” was one scrawl. “Freedom is a human right,” was another. The statements were interpreted as pro-Palestine.

Also Read | Usman Khawaja gives befitting reply to ICC over Gaza message ban in lead-up to Pakistan Test: ‘Human life to me is…’

Athletes have often have used their stage or name to take a stand. Here are some leading examples.

Indian wrestlers

Wronged Athlete versus Big Bad Administrator is a recurrent theme in Indian sports. This year saw a long and sordid battle between the two.

Led by Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, some Indian wrestlers launched a protest against the wrestling federation (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

They accused Singh of sexual harassment of female fighters and intimidation.

Singh is no longer WFI boss. But he is trying to get a crony installed in the December 21 elections so that he can run the sport by not-so-remote-control.

Colin Kaepernick

Going down on a knee meant romance. ‘Kap’ made it about activism.

About a decade ago, Kaepernick was an exciting prospect in American football. He played at the coveted quarterback position for the San Francisco 49ers. That’s a dream gig for many. But as a Black man, Kaepernick was disturbed by race issues and police brutality towards his community. In 2016, he started kneeling during the national anthem before games as a form of protest, making a very visual and global impact.

Iran football team

It was a protest in defence of protestors.

At the 2022 Fifa World Cup, the Iran team kept their lips defiantly sealed while their national anthem played before a match against England. A few months earlier, 22-year-old Iranian Mahsa Amini had died in police custody after flouting the hijab diktat. When demonstrations broke out across the country, the government began a violent crackdown. Not singing the anthem was the footballers’ way of booing the establishment.

Andrey Rublev

The intense Russian is capable of nuking his own knee with a racquet or winning fans over with humility. In 2022, when Rublev won the Dubai Championships, the Russia-Ukraine war had just started. “No War Please,” he wrote on the TV camera. This year, he repeated the act, penning ‘Tsoi is Alive’. Rublev was referring to the late rock star Viktor Tsoi, whose music resonates in troubled times.

Muhammad Ali

‘The Greatest’ was theatre 24/7. In the boxing ring or outside.

Ali’s first act of political rebellion was at 18 in his hometown, Louisville. It was a time of racial segregation. But Ali had just won gold at the 1960 Olympics, and innocently thought that might just get him a table in a ‘whites only’ restaurant. Instead, he was told, “We don’t serve ni----s.”

An anguished Ali tossed his medal in the Ohio river.

Some years later, Ali refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War. He said, with characteristic cheek and turn-of-phrase, "Man, I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”

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