Fri, Aug 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Speaking up is the moral duty of athletes

By Chang Jui-chuan 張睿銓

Whether the nation should be called “Taiwan” or go by various other titles has long been a subject of debate.

There is a common misunderstanding within the government and among the public concerning the title “Chinese Taipei,” which is used at international sporting events and other international activities. Some people think it is a fairly non-political term and more of a cultural one, but it has the political sense of possession.

Morocco used to be known as “French Morocco” when it was a French protectorate — or colony — from 1912 to 1955. The “French” in French Morocco was not a cultural adjective, but rather conveyed a sense of possession, so the same must be true of the “Chinese” in “Chinese Taipei.” If Taiwanese realized this, they would probably find the name much harder to accept.

However, there are also some Taiwanese athletes who fear that if the name is changed, they would no longer be allowed to compete. Their main concern is for themselves.

It is not just an issue for athletes, because many Taiwanese come under pressure from China. Nonetheless, we who call for Taiwan to be called by its proper name do so across the board. Our main concern is not whether we have a field to play on or stage to stand on, rather we hope that those who come after us will be free to do whatever they want, instead of being restricted like we are today.

So yes, athletes might feel that they are being sacrificed, but if we do not act now, nothing will change.

If future generations have a field to play on, it would be because of an act of charity by people who look down on us. What glory would there be in that?

Local athletes have made a wise move by putting forward the example of African American athlete Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in relation to the current campaign launched by Team Taiwan Campaign for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, they only talk about half the example.

Although Owens eventually decided to take part in the Berlin Olympics, before he made that decision, he, in open letters and media interviews, denounced the Nazis’ discrimination of and racism against minorities.

His reason for not withdrawing from the Games might have been that, back then, black people also suffered from severe discrimination in the US. Under segregationist policies, they could only sit in the back of buses and there were separate schools for blacks and whites. Even in the White House there were separate offices and toilets for black and white staff.

US society did not give Owens its wholehearted support. Even after winning four gold medals in Berlin, he was not invited to the White House and received no congratulations from then-US president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of course, in 1936, the US had not yet had a black president.

In the campaign for Team Taiwan, I have not heard of anyone urge athletes to withdraw from the Games or demand that they pull out. Rather, you might say that it is China that wants “Taiwan” to withdraw.

It is problematic to interpret the issue according to the example of Owens. Two points on which we can learn from Owens are that he clearly objected to the Nazis’ policies and that he was proud of his identity as a black person. That is why people remember not only his heroic performance in track and field events, but also his efforts to promote human rights and justice.

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