Dictatorial sports officials keeping our athletes silenced
SPORT in South Africa is autocratic. Democratic processes of interaction and discussion between officials and athletes are non-existent.
Sports federations aren’t only administered but viciously controlled by officialdom. Athletes and players are forced to be quiet, have no voice and are treated as non-thinking participants.
Across the board, in all sports federations, officials are intolerant of athletes’ voices. It’s not that officialdom doesn’t like athletes/players to announce their opinions. It’s about sports officials being the oligarchical bosses, demanding that athletes don’t have a voice. Sports officials are especially scared to have athletes/players speaking out and challenging officialdom.
With most sports federations, before an athlete gives an interview they must “get permission” and this permission is usually from the federation’s gatekeeper in the form of the communications/media person. These gatekeepers want to be present when the athlete is interviewed. They will tell you it’s to guard the athlete from being misquoted or something like that. But it’s really to ensure the athlete doesn’t “speak out of line”, according to the sports federation.
Particularly in the era of social media, athletes/players are monitored and anything remarked about or stated on social media that the federation officials don’t approve of is immediately and aggressively taken up with the athlete.
What are officials afraid of ? Why are they representing sports officialdom as a dictatorship and dictated entity? Why are they so intent on controlling the minds, opinion and thinking of athletes/players and participants?
Athletes aren’t only scared of officials; they also can’t question or challenge the appointed coach for fear of being dropped, not selected for a match or sidelined.
It’s not just about silencing the voices of athletes. It’s also about ensuring they have no critical consciousness. No political and social justice talk is allowed – not even encouraged or supported. Can you believe this?
Athletes, players and their coaches are expected to train and take part in sport according to how officialdom sets the rules and regulations. No discussion or opinion is entertained or entered into. And the other gatekeepers are the employees in sports federations, most of whom administer sport from offices as if they own the sport, together with the officials.
Across all sports, athletes are trapped. They have voices that are silenced. Should they dare to speak out and give their opinions, they are summoned for disciplinary action by insecure officials who rule the sport as if they own it.
Competitive sport is fiercely competitive with selection being highly challenged and contested. With no athlete wanting to jeopardise their selection chances, they keep quiet, speaking out only to close friends and contacts about their unhappiness, challenges and grievances.
The players and athletes get frustrated. They want to ask questions. They want answers. They have ideas about how sport can better deliver for athletes’ participation. Coaches dominate their thinking and behaviour. Officials silence them. There are no processes for athletes to speak out and challenge. They get told to take up challenges and grievances through their clubs and provincial structures.
However, it’s in these very sports confines that athletes are silenced.
If athletes and players knew their power they would stand together, across all sports, and boycott officialdom.
The control of athletes’ voices is not only unhealthy for sport, it’s also unbearable. Athletes must be allowed to speak without fear of being victimised, disciplined, suspended or expelled. Dictators, autocratic and oligarchical officials are harming sport.
They can’t question or challenge for fear of being dropped