The ball’s in their court: How athletes can influence the government

Marcus Rashford has been in the headlines for pressuring government into providing free school meals over the holidays (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

By Alex Hall | Contributor

Athletes often have a history of being scrutinised in the media, whether it be tax avoidance scandals or the issues regarding their salaries in relation to other professions. Despite this, recent rising stars coming onto the scene have demonstrated what it takes to be a true role model and how they can use their influence on government and social issues.

Just look at the recent actions of Manchester United striker and MBE, Marcus Rashford. His perseverance in the fight on child hunger is one that has received a huge amount of acknowledgement nationally during the last few months, with latest efforts raising over £20 million for the FareShare charity by April 2019.

In a Sky News interview Rashford states “It’s the government that need the understanding and the best way to do that is to meet the families”. His vocalisations on the topic are crafted with an assured approach to try to help the government rather than oppose them. This is why Marcus Rashford has been applauded for his efforts when speaking out about politics.

Even with this endeavour from the Manchester United striker, the government voted against extending free school meals to disadvantaged children during the holidays which was a controversial decision given the backing the movement got. The backlash that this received from the media has brought light to an area of concern in society that simply would not have gained the recognition without the influence of Marcus Rashford. 

But why has Rashford’s influence been recognised around the country? He is a young male with a huge social media following, he is one of the most talented footballers in the country and he is also aware of the ability that he has to make a difference in this country. 

He is a role model for all young people across this nation and a great example for how young athletes coming into the limelight can use their popularity and celebrity status to achieve great things off the field, the important things.

Rashford is only one example of the many British sport personalities that are trying to inflict change. 

After his first win in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton was hailed as an inspiration to the younger generation and his current affiliation with the Black Lives Matter campaign is keeping the issue relevant. The more relevant an issue is made out to be the more likely the government will do something about it.

It seems the Americans have also grasped this idea too. LeBron James has been at the forefront of this week’s Presidential Election expressing his support of Joe Biden and his campaign. This is hugely important for the number of states that are politically balanced. LeBron is a representation of the black community and his popularity in the NBA has encouraged a huge following around the world. The work to mobilize key groups of voters in the Black community will have real impact on the final proceedings and involvement from a key sporting figure can be crucial.

So there it is, the ball is most definitely in the athlete’s court. When they speak out and make their opinions known, it gains media coverage. 

This coverage has the ability to affect thousands of people and ultimately encourage political change. Sporting stars are supposed to encapsulate all the characteristics of a celebrity and an onus is on them to use their popularity in a positive way. After all, every athlete is a role model and once they grasp that they have the ability to impact thousands of lives for the better.

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