40 Years Later, Should Athletes Boycott the Olympics?

By Jonathan Adams May 07, 2008

In the Los Angeles Times, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points of the parallels between the 1968 Olympics and the upcoming summer games in Beijing.

Here we are 40 years later and we are once again about to send our young athletes overseas to compete in games while we send our young soldiers overseas to fight in war. And, as before, there is a social agenda attached to the Olympic Games.

But the former NBA player thinks the United States should not boycott the 2008 Olympics even if the fist-raising protests of the events forty years ago may have made a difference.

Instead of turning our backs, we need to continue a dialogue with the Chinese. When people stop communicating with each other, the situation doesn’t get better, it gets worse. The more we talk with each other, the more we understand each other and can reach compromises that will benefit the lives of those we are trying to help. Getting innocent people freed from prison or preventing others from being persecuted is much better than just wagging our fingers from across the ocean. Jackie Robinson once said that the great thing about athletics is that “you learn to act democracy, not just talk it.” That’s what our athletes will demonstrate to the 1 billion Chinese who may be watching.

Abdul-Jabbar sees the Olympics-and sports overall-as a way of uniting the international community, and a way of strengthening the possibility for change. What do you think? Should US athletes boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing in response to the Chinese arguable support of the atrocities in Darfur?