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Athletes Using Their Sports to Send a Message

Posted June. 03, 2009 07:37,   


Golf tournaments at home and abroad drew much attention over the weekend, and not for what happened on the green.

In the United States, the PGA Tour Wives Association held the event “Pink Out” for the wife of defending PGA champion Phil Mickelson, whose wife has breast cancer.

In Korea, female golfers paid tribute to the late former President Roh Moo-hyun. Yun Chae-yeong wore black earrings and Kim Bo-gyeong wore yellow pants, shirt and cap. The color yellow represents Roh.

The golfers in the United States and Korea united to raise awareness of a certain event. Collective actions by athletes to deliver a message have recently drawn attention.

After beating Japan in the quarterfinal of the World Baseball Classic in March, Bong Jung-keun and Lee Jin-young of the Korean national squad planted Korea’s national flag on the mound. The team had done the same in the tournament’s first edition three years ago.

At the 2007 Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China, Korea’s female short track team won the silver medal and held signs saying, “Mount Baekdu belongs to Korea” at the awards ceremony. This angered Beijing and almost caused a diplomatic row between Korea and China.

In soccer, striker Lee Keun-ho in November last year pretended to soothe Korea national coach Huh Jung-moo like a baby after scoring in a World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia. Korean team captain Park Ji-sung suggested the idea since Huh celebrated the birth of two grandchildren.

In a friendly match in the Middle East, the Korean team held a performance against an electronic signboard saying, “Dokdo Belongs to Korea.”

The Korea Football Association’s promotion manager Lee Won-jae said, “In the past, we used to ask players not to mention sensitive issues. Recently, however, players have made good judgments.”

The essence of sports is honesty and purity. Nevertheless, political elites used to take advantage of sports to promote their own political parties or maintain power, while forcing players and athletes to behave like puppets. This has changed, however, as more people agree that the spirit of sports should not be hampered by politics or religion.

More athletes recently are expressing their originality or positions on social issues through their performances.

Park Chan-hyeok, sports marketing director for Cheil Worldwide, said, “Sports has long been considered an isolated arena but has recently merged with politics, economy and society. Sports fans and corporate sponsors even pay much attention to the daily affairs of players.”