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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.
President Biden set to visit Pittsburgh this afternoon
By Brian Sherry, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024
SGB hosts last meeting of the school year 
By Emma Hannan, Staff Writer  • April 17, 2024
Satire | A better use for editorial space
By Anna Ehlers, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024

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President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.
President Biden set to visit Pittsburgh this afternoon
By Brian Sherry, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024
SGB hosts last meeting of the school year 
By Emma Hannan, Staff Writer  • April 17, 2024
Satire | A better use for editorial space
By Anna Ehlers, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024

Opinion | Athletes are people, too

Opinion+%7C+Athletes+are+people%2C+too
Fikayomi Olagbami | Staff Illustrator

We are living in a new age for athletes — they are now starring in Netflix documentaries and have millions of followers on Instagram. Sports have always been an integral part of American culture, but now athletes have become huge celebrities. Now every professional sports team has social media that follows the athletes and often collects behind-the-scenes moments that show their personality in a way that isn’t always visible from just watching the game.

I think this new style of sports media improves the experience of watching sports. I’ve worked at a golf course for the past few summers, but I have never played the game myself and didn’t have much interest in it until I watched “Full Swing.” This documentary features the best current golfers and does a great job capturing their personalities so new fans can connect with the sport. Seeing the real people behind the game makes watching the tournament an entirely new experience. 

One benefit in this increased media exposure is that it helps break down the old image of an athlete. There is still a culture of toxic masculinity in sports where we expect that athletes exhibit the highest standards of manliness. We should welcome the new era where athletes are not bound by these unfair expectations.

I think that these expectations surrounding outdated ideals of masculinity are clashing with the current media personality that makes the modern athlete. Athletes expressing themselves online and on the field is a step in the right direction. 

Athletes are some of the biggest figures in male fashion. They always attract attention when they arrive at games, as the team photographers take pictures while they walk into the arena. One quarterback that has gained notoriety for not only his skill on the field, but his impressive outfits, is Joe Burrow. My favorite outfit of his is his all white suit, chain and sunglasses combo. Embracing fashion lets these athletes show another side of themselves. Seeing their personality through fashion can contrast with their persona on the field, and that’s fun for fans. Pregame fashion is not only classy, but lets the athlete control their image before they battle on the field.

Athletes are also making podcasts, like the Kelce brothers’ show “New Heights,” in which the two share funny stories and talk about their experiences in a humanizing way. The Prime Video documentary “Kelce” also gives an up close and personal view into their lives as the brothers, Jason and Travis, compete against each other in the Super Bowl. 

This documentary beautifully shows the work that goes into both winning and losing. Jason Kelce embraces the vulnerability and shows a new side in the biggest event in American sports. There is something truly touching about watching him go from congratulating his brother in the middle of the chaotic post game celebration to sitting in the quiet hotel room, explaining to his toddlers that they should be happy for their uncle. 

While I enjoy this moment in sports culture for the funny interview clips and beautiful pregame suits, there are also serious reasons for breaking down masculinity in sports. When athletes are treated like machines, it is incredibly harmful for their mental health. Athletes are valuable in society, beyond their abilities in their sport. Masculinity is rooted so deeply in contact sports like football and hockey that athletes often get hurt as a result of the increased violence in these games.

Becoming a professional athlete takes almost an entire life of dedication, but there is never stability — one bad hit or wrong step can end an entire career. Athletes should have opportunities to explore other parts of their personalities because they are more than their sport, even if they aren’t treated like it.

As frustrating as it is when your team isn’t performing the way you want, we should remember that athletes are people, too. 

Expectations of masculinity have racial implications as well. Black men are often held to higher standards of success and masculinity than others. Many Black men struggle to get help due to a fear of being perceived as weak but also due to the racial stigmas they face. DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls has spoken out about struggles with depression. He speaks about the immense pressures that athletes face to be perfect and never show any weakness, and he acknowledges that his identity as a Black man contributed to the pressures he faced. 

Another thing that must always be considered when it comes to sports culture is what this means for children. Oftentimes, boys learn about masculinity through watching sports or participating in them. I hope that this shift in athletes showing more vulnerability and self-expression will create a less harmful environment. Kids not only admire athletes but learn about the world through the sports they play growing up.

Let’s enjoy the media that surrounds sports and let athletes use it for self-expression. It makes sports a more positive environment when athletes can be themselves. 

Jameson Keebler writes primarily about pop culture and current events. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Jameson Keebler
Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist
Jameson Keebler is a junior Political Science major. She is from New Jersey and loves to read. She is interested in writing about literature and pop culture.