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Australia is on fire. Like California in the United States, bush fires during the hotter months are a common occurrence, but climate change has fanned those flames, and they just keep burning. Huge swaths of lands are now devastated and dead, as is whatever lived there, be they plants, insects, marsupial, or even people. It’s horrifying on a number of levels, and the kind of thing that isn’t going to just get better by ignoring it or sending well wishes.
It’s through this lens that you need to read Howard Bryant’s latest at ESPN, in which he takes tennis players — and athletes in general — to task for the way they handle political crises:
Appropriate or not, the narrative has been typecast to return us to normalcy, with athletes’ on-field strength infusing us, teams and players arm-in-arm with law enforcement, mayors and governors. They are the ambassadors whose very presence tells you we will rebuild, that everything will be all right.
While the fires decimate the country and players voice their concerns that conditions are unsafe and perhaps the tournament should be postponed, Tennis Australia, the governing body of the sport in the country, has said little of substance to address the effects of the fires on player safety, or the ethics and morality of hosting a multimillion-dollar spectacle as the country literally burns. Health officials have graded the air quality as “unhealthy.” Even through the smoke, it appears the show must go on.
The superstars, knowing their place despite the growing voices of dissent within their own ranks, assured tennis authorities and the public at large they could still be counted on, that they would trust authority instead of challenge it.
Continue reading “The world is burning, and athletes are silent”