Before the Olympics even started, athletes were being banned from the Games.
At least one athlete was anyway, and for an interesting twist she was disqualified from competition because of something she was putting into her body. The suspended Greek athlete didn’t even cheat, but her country’s Olympic governing body saw fit to suspend nonetheless.
The crime she committed was to say some inappropriate and kind of racist things on Twitter, which has been getting high-profile people into trouble since coming online in 2006.
The penalty in this case doesn’t really fit the crime. Who knows exactly what this particular athlete meant by the tweet? It may not have been intended to harm or cause insult to anyone.
The athlete in question is 23 and shouldn’t be surprised at how the Internet works. When posting something online, it can be interpreted many different ways with little control by the author over how the message is read.
It may have been a joke that her friends would find funny. I have certainly made some shocking jokes before that, if told over a forum like Twitter instead of amongst friends, could very easily be interpreted in a way that would make people think I am a horrible person.
This comment is likely a simple lapse in judgment from a young woman who should know better, but should also still be able to compete in an Olympic Games. These come around every four years, and she likely will not compete at any games now. Not everybody gets a second opportunity at the Olympics.
If a Canadian athlete said the same thing, I would hope they would still be able to compete. The backlash of venomous tweets in their direction afterward would be more than a sufficient penalty.
As a member of a team representing a country, Olympic athletes should be considered role models. Based just on the fact that they’re representing more than themselves, Olympians who use social media to share racist views should be punished.
I understand that there’s a line when it comes to freedom of speech. Athletes can definitely say whatever they’d like, but when their comments cross socially acceptable lines, they’re knowingly putting themselves in trouble. If you’ve been chosen to represent your sport and your country, you should be holding yourself to the standards the rest of your nation has for you. And while it may seem like an Olympic athlete’s right to free speech is less than an average person’s, I’d say not.
Let’s say you have a racist neighbour who sometimes slips into hate speech. He may be an awesome person otherwise, a great father and a great neighbour, but knowing that he has an opinion of hate and shares it pretty freely isn’t something you’ll forget, or maybe even forgive him for. That damaged opinion is magnified in public figures. People in the public spotlight are going to be analyzed more carefully and picked apart when they post something inappropriate.
I do believe that Olympic athletes succeed because of their hard work and athletic skill, not their moral character. After all, character doesn’t run a race faster than the other racers. But athletes represent their countries. Their behaviour reflects more than themselves, and at a peaceful gathering of nations, racism and hatred have no place.