Advertisement

Separation of sport and State: military salutations at US Major League Soccer events

  • Kendra Magraw
Article
  • 11 Downloads

Abstract

A central tenet of the international sports movement is that sport should be unfettered by politics—in other words, there must be a separation of sport and State. This is regulated by many governing bodies, such as the IOC and FIFA, which prohibit almost all forms of political statements. Nonetheless, sports events can be powerful platforms and many actors have utilised them for political means. This article addresses the now-common phenomenon at US professional sport events of paying homage to the military. This assumes various forms, often consisting of announcers directing the audience to pay tribute to the US armed forces or veterans prior to or during a match. A 2015 enquiry by two US Congresspersons exposed that the US Government had paid over USD 10 million to US professional sports leagues for such tributes, without disclosing the paid nature thereof to sports events audiences, a practice termed ‘paid patriotism’. Focusing on Major League Soccer, one league whose teams were documented to have held paid military tributes, this article argues that, paid or unpaid, such military salutations are impermissible political statements and thus inconsistent with the applicable (FIFA) regulations. Parallels are drawn to the wearing of poppies and associated homages on Remembrance Day organised by the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations. As a result of the poppy controversy, IFAB modified the Laws of the Game leading up to the 2018 Russia World Cup to permit commemorations of a ‘significant national and international event’. Nevertheless, military salutations remain impermissible political statements within the modified rule.

Keywords

Political statements Military tributes Poppy gate Poppy wars Paid patriotism MLS FIFA World Cup IFAB Laws of the Game Soccer Football 

Notes

References

  1. Bacevich AJ (2010) Washington rules: America’s path to permanent war. Metropolitan Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Boykoff J (2016) Power games: a political history of the olympics. Verso, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Butterworth ML (2005) Ritual in the “Church of Baseball”: suppressing the discourse of democracy after 9/11. Comm Crit/Cult Stud 2(2):107–129Google Scholar
  4. Edelman M (2018) Standing to kneel: analyzing NFL players’ freedom to protest during the playing of the US national anthem, Fordham L R Online 1Google Scholar
  5. Fischer M (2013) Commemorating 9/11 NFL-style: insights into America’s culture of militarism. J Sport Soc Issues 38(3):199–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kisseloff J (2006) Generation on fire: voices of protest from the 1960s, an oral history. University Press of Kentucky, LexingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. Martin S, McHendry GF Jr (2016) Kaepernick’s stand: patriotism, protest, and professional sports. J Contemp Rhetor 6(3/4):88Google Scholar
  8. Nafziger JAR, Strenk A (1978) The political uses and abuses of sports. Conn Law Rev 10:259–289Google Scholar
  9. Robinson J (1972) I never had it made. Putnam, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Rugg A (2016) America’s game: the NFL’s ‘Salute to Service’ campaign, the diffused military presence, and corporate social responsibility. Pop Commun 14(1):21–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Schwab B (2018) ‘Celebrate Humanity’: reconciling sport and human rights through athlete activism. J Leg Asp Sport 18:2Google Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Instituut 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kendra Magraw
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate Institute of International and Development StudiesGenevaSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations