Athletes are public figures under tremendous pressure. They are representatives of millions of fans, along with sports clubs and entire nations.
The notoriety and honor come at the cost of extreme scrutiny and merciless trolling at the hands of intensely dedicated fans and critics.
Hence, there are several instances when sportspeople are disrespected despite their contributions. Here are some of these instances when players faced mistreatment.
1. Arshdeep Singh
On Sunday, Arshdeep Singh dropped Pakistan’s Asif Ali ball, a common mistake. Much to everyone’s dismay, India lost the match with one ball to spare. However, a simple human error caused Arshdeep to receive abuse from supposed ‘fans’.
Social media was abounding with trolls, his Wikipedia page was vandalized, and the term ‘Khalistani’ was added to it. He was dubbed a traitor for simply dropping a catch. His name was changed to disrespectful and ableist terms. Following the abuse, corrective measures were enforced and the number of players and fans rushed to Arshdeep’s support.
2. Neeraj Chopra
In an interview with the Time of India, the 23-year-old Olympic Champion said that before his first throw at the Tokyo Olympics, he was not able to find his javelin as Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem was moving around with it. However, Indian fans quickly assumed that the Pakistani sportsman tampered with the javelin.
Neeraj Chopra, known for his excellence and sportsman spirit, clarified and defended Nadeem. He posted a video on Twitter saying that the player was not tampering, he was practicing. Furthermore, he expressed his disappointment at the public’s reaction.
He requested people not to use him as a medium to further their vested interests and propaganda.
3. Mohammed Shami
The 31-year-old pacer became the target of online trollers’ after performing poorly in a key match against Pakistan. The attackers dubbed him a traitor and made islamophobic comments.
These are some of the comments on Mohammed Shami’s Instagram account. The hyper-nationalist Indian cricket fans have unleashed worst form of communal abuse on Shami for India’s loss against Pakistan. Not surprised at all because this is what India is famous for. #IndvsPak pic.twitter.com/KCsSzAr5y3— Saif (@isaifpatel) October 24, 2021
They abused the celebrated baller, accusing him of match-fixing and being faithful to Pakistan due to his religion. Former captain Virat Kohli hit back at trolls in defense of Shami, condemning the communal abuse as ‘pathetic‘.
4. Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni
In response to this defense, trolls turned their grimy necks to Kohli and his family. Stooping a new low, some people issued rape threats to Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s baby daughter. The man was later arrested for the disgusting behavior.
Kohli and Anushka’s 10-month-old daughter is getting rape threats because he decided to stand by his Muslim teammate, call out bigotry, and say discrimination on the basis of religion is wrong.— Andre Borges (@borges) October 31, 2021
A 10-month-old child.
This is the India that we let happen.
This was unfortunately not the first time such an incident happened. In 2020, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s five-year-old daughter was targeted online with similar threats after Chennai Super Kings lost against Kolkata Knight Riders.
5. Mesut Ozil
German midfielder Mesut Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, retired due to the hatred. He said, “I will no longer be playing for Germany at (the) international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t.”
He was targeted for his Turkish lineage and was also dropped from the starting XI in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. His race compelled him to answer questions about his loyalty verbally, despite showcasing dedication to his sport and country.
6. Vandana Katariya
Last year, after the Indian Women’s Hockey Team lost the semifinal match in the Tokyo Olympics, two casteist men celebrated mockingly in front of the Dalit player’s family home.
The trolls blamed the number of Dalit players on the team for the loss. Former captain Rani Rampal came out in fierce support of her teammate and rightfully lashed out at the casteist trolls.
7. Babar Azam
Pakistan’s skipper Babar Azam recently became the target of elitist trolling. His post-match interview after Pakistan defeated the Netherlands became a hot topic of debate over his spoken English. Although not fluently, Azam clearly communicated his thoughts.
After the disrespectful trolling, Babar posted his photographs on Twitter ahead of the India vs Pakistan match. Fans took it upon themselves to point out alleged weight gain on the skipper. The fatphobia and elitism does not affect Azam’s top performance.
8. Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford
Toxic nationalism is not an Indian thing. A few months prior to the Olympics, English football fans brutally attacked three black players brutally, including physical assault.
In the Euro 2020 championship game’s decisive penalty shootout, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rushford missed their attempts. A study by FIFA revealed that Rashford and Saka were the most viciously abused footballers both before and after the Euro 2020.
9. Dutee Chand
Indian sprinter Dutee Chand faces constant homophobia and transphobia at every mistake or loss that she faces. The publicly intersex and lesbian sportsperson has faced backlash and competition bans due to her identity.
She was forced to come out as a lesbian after she was threated of getting outed and losing family support and her career.
Can we please start respecting athletes instead of seeing them as pawns for our fandoms?