With great power comes great responsibility

There are things expected of athletes of color that are not expected of other athletes.


“A lot is asked of athletes of color that is not asked of other athletes.”

A couple of weeks ago I decided to knock a film off of my ever-growing need-to-watch list. I grew up golfing, so I picked the Max documentary “Tiger.”

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At age 47, Tiger Woods has played 373 tournaments, clinched 82 PGA TOUR wins, 12 international wins and was the FedExCup champion in 2007 and 2009. He’s been on the Presidents Cup and American Ryder Cup team nine and eight times respectively. He turned pro at just 20 years old and is tied with Sam Snead for the most wins in PGA TOUR history. 

But more than acknowledging Woods’ record-breaking career, the documentary explored key points that distinguish Woods from his brand — that makes him, simply put, just Tiger.

From a young age, Woods was thrust into the spotlight. He first showed interest in golf at six months old and by the time he was five, he had putt alongside Bob Hope on “The Mike Douglas Show,” shot 48 for nine holes and appeared in Golf Digest. As the youngest ever Masters champion at 21 years old, Woods quickly became the face of Nike, and one that so many young hopefuls looked up to. 

Barely an adult himself, Woods grappled with his identity as a “Cablinasian” — a mix of Caucasian, Black, Indigenous and Asian — his game and newfound designation as a role model. Everywhere, it was always about how Woods was going to change the game, how he was changing the game. Even Nike ran an ad on the future of golf, using his race as a focal point to highlight the diversity, equity and inclusion leaps and bounds the sport still needed to tackle.

There was no separation. All the achievement, all the agony, all the anxiety — it was a part of the same narrative, Woods’ narrative. Woven together like a braid, Woods’ success as an athlete paralleled the pressure he felt to perform — which got me thinking. 

My sports column focuses on athletes of color who are breaking records and making waves both on and off the field. But what about just before, or after, the field when they’re mentally preparing themselves to be that person they would’ve looked up to when they were younger? The slapped-on smile? Over-excited eyes? Competing at such a high caliber is challenging enough — let alone as a young, underrepresented athlete. 

Let’s look at some examples.

Connor Bedard. Max Verstappen. Dusty Henricksen. Scotty James. All excellent, trailblazing athletes. All an inspiration to put down new tricks, new times, new stats. All white men.

Coverage includes “Max Verstappen wins Mexico GP, breaking his record for most wins in a single F1 season” and “Connor Bedard is the NHL’s latest ‘next Sidney Crosby.’ The original has plenty left in the tank.” 

Bianca Bustamante. Jason Robertson. Chloe Kim. Ben Shelton. Eileen Gu. All athletes of color, all at the top of their respective sports, all designated as “role models” for the next generation despite being so young. Media headlines include: “Bianca Bustamante makes ‘herstory’ for PH in F1 Academy,” “Chloe Kim’s Newest Trick: Breaking The Role Model Myth” and “Not ‘Just Jason’: Jason Robertson, the Stars’ Electric Winger, Is the Next Face of Hockey.”

Instead of just them and the sport, they’re also expected to be a role model, be the new face, set an example, inspire others and support the next generation — all while they’re breaking records and excelling.

Just some food for thought. 

There are things expected of athletes of color that are not expected of other athletes.

Victoria Lee is a sophomore writing about diversity and representation in sports. Her column, “The Chairlift,” runs every other Wednesday.

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