North America at Home and at the Olympics
by Adam Goodwin | 2014 | Last Updated: February 19, 2014
Unless you live under a rock, or this is your first time reading my blog, you likely know I grew up in North America. Canada, to be a little more accurate. Western Canada (for most of it), to be a little more precise. In this post, I will be using the term North America to refer mainly about Canada and the USA (no disrespect to Mexico, but to be fair, this post does not concern Mexico, directly).
Sochi 2014 Olympics
Unless you live under another rock, you likely know the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place right now in Sochi, Russia. (An impromptu commercial break: Go Canada!) For the past 7-8 years, Russia has been preparing to showcase Russia to the world stage. Along with those preparations, there has been some controversy (if you follow the Olympic Movement, you will likely realize every Games has much controversy surrounding the host city/country).
Much of the recent controversy surrounding Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics, has been related to the introduction, in 2013, of an “anti-gay law”. I put “anti-gay law” in quotations, because, depending on whom you speak with, there are about 30 different interpretations as to what exactly the law is making illegal. Alas, this is not the purpose of this blog post – to try and interpret another country’s laws.
When Russia introduced the law last year, many nations threatened sanctions against Russia for its treatment of the Russian LGBTQ community. Even numerous Nobel Prize winners have pleaded with Russia to reconsider.
Some even went so far as to approach the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games committee ask if they could hold the Games in lieu of Russia (this wouldn’t be the first time a host city was switches). From purely logistics, these individuals obviously have never planned a mega event as the logistics alone would not be viable with only a year’s notice.
To avoid providing a play-by-play, many people and governments made a huge outcry surrounding Russia’s treatment of all of its citizens. Additionally, there was concern for LGBTQ athletes competing in Sochi and whether they could be prosecuted when entering the country, under this new law introduced in 2013.
This is North America and its relationship with the 2014 Olympics.
From Canada’s best friend nation, comes the story of Michael Sam. Here is a decent Sports Illustrated article that tries to provide some background: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20140210/michael-sam-missouri-tigers-nfl-draft/
In short, Sam will soon graduate from playing college football (American football, not soccer) in the USA’s NCAA Division I. Recently, Sam came out to the public as being homosexual.
A large reason Sam has received much media coverage in a North America is the likelihood he will be drafted to the National Football League (NFL). If this is so, he would be the first openly gay professional athlete in the USA (for the four major American sports: basketball, baseball, football and hockey). There have been other gay professional athletes, but they came out after their retirement or other circumstances when they were not playing.
The response from many has been positive. Both American President Obama and FLOTUS, his wife, the First Lady, have publicly supported Sam for his courage and blazing a path for other athletes. Many journalists have provided insightful articles and thoughts about what this means for Sam, professional sport, and the larger LGBTQ community.
On the flip side, there has been negative and hurtful backlash towards Sam. Some professional NFL players have said they would not want him on their team. The same for athletes competing in other leagues and sports.
This is a snapshot of North America at home.
These events stood out to me as an example of congruence. In the days of Facebook, blogs, and faceless internet communication, it is easy to write about equal rights and human rights. Just as many North Americans are doing when they speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws. This is a needed part of the debate about what equality and human rights mean to Canadians, Americans, Russians, and the larger world.
We must also remember to live in congruence. Walk how we talk.
It is hypocritical to call out Russia, only to then treat an openly gay man poorly at home. This is not congruence. This is not walking the talk.
These events stood out to me also as an example of humans. To be a perfect human means to be imperfect. To have faults. Weaknesses.
A fault, in my eyes, is to call for Canada to boycott the 2014 Sochi Olympic Gwmes, only to treat an athlete poorly based on his sexual orientation (if ever, there is a reason to treat someone poorly). This is hypocritical. However, this is part of being a human.
A Call To Action
How can you, the reader, ensure you live in congruence with your values, beliefs, and ideas? It is good to value, for example, inclusivity. But, in your day-to-day live, is this value reflected by your choices and behaviours?
If you have some ideas, join the conversation by commenting below or finding us online.
Based on your reading of this blog post, you may also wish to read: Mandela (click here)
These are one person’s thoughts and opinions. I welcome and strive to get your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with me via social media.
Adam Goodwin is a Canadian working in the United Kingdom, and is a proud shameless idealist. His parents currently work in Cairo, Egypt. He has siblings and distant family in Canada and around the rainbow nation’s only home. Follow his year+ overseas on Twitter (@adam13goodwin) and on this blog.