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Sportswashing

Uppercut

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Might be good to have a general thread about this. How do people feel about it?

Having belatedly woken up to its existence, I feel like the concept is now very over-applied in Western media. Any non-democratic country hosting a sports event is now assumed to be doing so strategically to improve their reputation, when the reality is usually just that some influential figure happens to really like Boxing or Golf. The effect is usually another round of media coverage about humans rights violations, so if sportswashing is the idea, it doesn't seem to work very often. My opinion of Qatar or Abu Dhabi definitely hasn't improved since they took over major football clubs, and surely I'm not in the minority there. Perhaps the effect is a bit more subtle than that.

Ironically the most flagrant and successful modern example of sportswashing is Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup, which was barely criticised by the media at all in comparison to Middle Eastern events.

Likewise the conversation is struggling to move past boycott as a possible solution. Without any end goal this always strikes me as very self-indulgent - you do nothing to help the victims of those regimes, and may even make things worse, but you get to feel like it has nothing to do with you. I do also find it icky to watch sport built on morally abhorrent foundations, and I'm less likely to do it, but I know I'm not doing the world a favour by switching off. Maybe I'm wrong and there is some tangible impact. I'd be interested to learn more about the sporting boycotts of South Africa. I'm sceptical of the idea that they had much political impact, but I don't know enough about it to say.

I saw some footballers were talking about making participation in the Qatar World Cup contingent on compensation for migrant workers, which is a much better idea, though it seems unlikely to happen. Ideally the media would start pressuring players and organisations to extract political concessions in exchange for participation. At the moment it's very "why are you participating you scumbag" and I'm not sure how it helps anyone.
 

sledger

Spanish_Vicente
I feel pretty torn about this sort of thing. Instinctively I feel like not trying to boycott these sorts of things is to tacitly approve or endorse them. That said, having recently thought about this a bit harder, as you say, boycotts may have limited impact, or may even cause more harm than good in a lot of instances. I think I'd find it very hard to continue to "properly" support Arsenal, for example, (assuming that is what I do currently) if they were bought out by Saudi owners or something though. Or owners from any other regime which has an atrocious human rights record, or anything along those lines. It would just feel too grubby, and football is often already grubby enough as it is.
 

sledger

Spanish_Vicente
But then at the same time, I expect more or less everything we do every day is linked to (or rooted in) deeply unethical practices in one way or another (e.g. the food we consume, the products we buy, the energy/tools we use, the food we eat etc.). A complete boycott of any of these things is probably completely unfeasible for essentially anyone, and wouldn't change anything (why leaving regulation of critical industries and services to "the market" is a dire idea lelelel), so attempts to actively raise awareness and lobby for change is probably the best way forward.
 

Howe_zat

Audio File
The effect is usually another round of media coverage about humans rights violations, so if sportswashing is the idea, it doesn't seem to work very often. My opinion of Qatar or Abu Dhabi definitely hasn't improved since they took over major football clubs, and surely I'm not in the minority there. Perhaps the effect is a bit more subtle than that.
While what you've said makes sense, and is usually my gut reaction to the term, I can't help but think this line is very reminiscent of those people who claim advertising is a waste of money because 'it never makes me buy anything'.
 

Shady Slim

Cricketer Of The Year
moral obloquy is present everywhere in sports tbf, both on the micro level and macro level. ben roethlisberger my favourite steeler has some rape allegations out there that, though untested in a court of law seem semi credible. do i still wear his jersey and back my dudes on game day? absolutely!

i think on the international context, sports are a great form of cultural exchange and allow countries frozen out of the diplomatic mainstream to be allowed back in, i am a huge proponent of the diplomatic value of sporting events. it's why i think banning countries from things like the olympics is really dumb. is this to say all the women of -insert regime with regressive policies towards its women- here will all get magically liberated if eleven men from that country get to kick a ball around with some americans? nooooo! but it can cool tensions, bring people around to the discussion table, and so on
 

SillyCowCorner1

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
i think on the international context, sports are a great form of cultural exchange and allow countries frozen out of the diplomatic mainstream to be allowed back in, i am a huge proponent of the diplomatic value of sporting events. it's why i think banning countries from things like the olympics is really dumb. is this to say all the women of -insert regime with regressive policies towards its women- here will all get magically liberated if eleven men from that country get to kick a ball around with some americans? nooooo! but it can cool tensions, bring people around to the discussion table, and so on
Replace ‘sports’ with ‘food’ and it brings more people to the table (pun intended)
 

Chewie

International Vice-Captain
I feel pretty torn about this sort of thing. Instinctively I feel like not trying to boycott these sorts of things is to tacitly approve or endorse them. That said, having recently thought about this a bit harder, as you say, boycotts may have limited impact, or may even cause more harm than good in a lot of instances. I think I'd find it very hard to continue to "properly" support Arsenal, for example, (assuming that is what I do currently) if they were bought out by Saudi owners or something though. Or owners from any other regime which has an atrocious human rights record, or anything along those lines. It would just feel too grubby, and football is often already grubby enough as it is.
Saudi bought a stake in Nintendo recently iirc
 

Niall

Cricketer Of The Year
Everyone taking this seriously now, but turns a blind eye when the ECB sportswashed the questions Joe Root still hasn't answered and then installed a violent thug as test captain.
Wasn't their a story which I assume was an urban myth, that Warner punched Root because he was annoyed he was doing an Amla impression? :euro:
 

Burgey

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That’s right. Everyone scoffed at Warner. yet years later he was shown to have been right about the bastard all along
 

social

Hall of Fame Member
I am struggling to see how this is an attempt at “sportswash” as the tour isn’t trying to improve the image of Saudi

If anything, it’s highlighted some of the issues
 
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Uppercut

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While what you've said makes sense, and is usually my gut reaction to the term, I can't help but think this line is very reminiscent of those people who claim advertising is a waste of money because 'it never makes me buy anything'.
Yeah haha this is kind of what I was getting at with the next sentence. I've been thinking more about what a subtle positive effect might look like. It's probably pretty good for the state-run businesses? People are probably more likely to holiday in UAE or use Fly Emirates to travel now that their name is out there so much.

I'm really not sure if that's any kind of ethical travesty though. The idea that lots of contact with Westerners will make these countries more liberal, which Shady elaborates on, tends to be dismissed as hopelessly naive. Maybe it is, but it's surely more plausible than the idea that engaging with them will entrench their illiberalism? Especially relative to a world where the West shuns and boycotts them. I posted about it somewhere else, but a friend with deep inside knowledge of Qatari politics tells me that the Qatar World Cup is being seen as a litmus test for the liberal faction, and its failure due to boycott would massively empower the theocratic Islamists.
 

Shady Slim

Cricketer Of The Year
Yeah haha this is kind of what I was getting at with the next sentence. I've been thinking more about what a subtle positive effect might look like. It's probably pretty good for the state-run businesses? People are probably more likely to holiday in UAE or use Fly Emirates to travel now that their name is out there so much.

I'm really not sure if that's any kind of ethical travesty though. The idea that lots of contact with Westerners will make these countries more liberal, which Shady elaborates on, tends to be dismissed as hopelessly naive. Maybe it is, but it's surely more plausible than the idea that engaging with them will entrench their illiberalism? Especially relative to a world where the West shuns and boycotts them. I posted about it somewhere else, but a friend with deep inside knowledge of Qatari politics tells me that the Qatar World Cup is being seen as a litmus test for the liberal faction, and its failure due to boycott would massively empower the theocratic Islamists.
i think for what it's worth it probably is broadly naive to think playing sport with illiberal countries will suddenly wake them up to the joys of john rawls or some ish, but as u point out more broadly i think outright shunning so called bad guy countries leads to more revanchism (@Spark did i use that right?) and fortifies the claims of people in those countries who want to create a them vs the west narrative which is obviously bad for the world, just as much as it fortifies the claims of people in the west who seek to create a the west vs them narrative which is also obviously bad for the world
 

Uppercut

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i think for what it's worth it probably is broadly naive to think playing sport with illiberal countries will suddenly wake them up to the joys of john rawls or some ish, but as u point out more broadly i think outright shunning so called bad guy countries leads to more revanchism (@Spark did i use that right?) and fortifies the claims of people in those countries who want to create a them vs the west narrative which is obviously bad for the world, just as much as it fortifies the claims of people in the west who seek to create a the west vs them narrative which is also obviously bad for the world
I wonder how much of this could also have been applied to Apartheid South Africa. Because even if it did, I still really don't feel like teams should have played against countries with an all-white selection policy. That might be inconsistent of me.
 

Shady Slim

Cricketer Of The Year
I wonder how much of this could also have been applied to Apartheid South Africa. Because even if it did, I still really don't feel like teams should have played against countries with an all-white selection policy. That might be inconsistent of me.
i wonder if the appropriateness of a sports "boycott" depends on the nation then

eg i would say north korea is a country who we should be doing a lot more to play sports with. south africa during apartheid to my understanding, and correct me if i'm wrong, were illiberal though not cloistered right? which is to say, with countries that are already in the "outgroup" boycotts serve only to further isolate, but countries that are in the "ingroup" of trade and commerce etc, maybe boycotts are more appropriate there
 

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