Greek Triple jumper Voula Papachristou has been expelled from Greece’s Olympic team this week for mocking African immigrants and expressing support on Twitter for the far-right Golden Dawn party. Despite the obnoxious content of these views for many of us, I believe that the move raises serious free speech concerns.
Papachristou was removed from the team because her tweets were viewed as “plac[ing her] outside the Olympic team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.”
Papachristou is responsible for several retweets and postings of YouTube videos promoting the views of Golden Dawn, which is viewed as a virtually fascist organization by critics. The most serious matter however came with a tweet on a story of the appearance of Nile-virus-carrying mosquitoes in Athens. Papachristou wrote: “With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!” The tweet produced a firestorm of criticism.
She was also criticized for several of her retweets were original tweets by Ilias Kasidiaris, the Golden Dawn spokesman who recently struck a female Communist MP in the face and threw water at another female MP during a TV talk show. Papachristou tweeted to Kassidiaris on his name day, last Friday, “Many happy years, be always strong and true!!!”
She posted apologetic messages on Twitter and Facebook, stating “I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights. My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races. I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family.”
This is not the first time the games have faced such a controversy. Indeed, these tweets are minor when compared to the protest of African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Games. Notably, the U.S. opposed the expulsion of the athletes from the games but yielded when the entire U.S. team was threatened with expulsion. I thought the protest in 1968 was inappropriate and deserving of punishment given the tradition and rules of the international games regarding political statements at the competition. In this case, however, Papachristou engaged an inappropriate joke and associated with an controversial party before the start of the games.
The decision to remove the athlete in my view is a core violation of free speech. The political association criticism is particularly worrisome as a cited basis for the action. Many athletes have historically been connected to political parties or movements from black liberation to environmental causes. This appears a case of selective prosecution. Likewise, the joke was tasteless and obnoxious. However, she apologized for it. Moreover, she is allowed to hold anti-immigration views. I agree that she is given an honor to represent a nation and can be expected to refrain from such comments during her participation. However, the impression is that it is the holding of these views and not necessarily the timing that prompted such action. If Papachristou had made such jokes last year, would it still be a basis to bar her from the team? While she insists it was a joke, the controversy does raise the question of whether a racist should be barred due to his or her views. In my view, they should not be barred though they can be expected to refrain from such comments while on the team representing a nation. There are many athletes with known anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or misogynistic views that are common to their countries. They are not barred from competition. If we start to bar athletes on unacceptable views, where to we draw the line? I understand the uproar and I believe that Papachristou was rightfully forced to apologize because she is representing Greece. However, I am disturbed by the outcry over her political views and the demand for her removal.
What do you think?
66 thoughts on “Greek Athlete Expelled From Olympic Team Over Political Views And Racist Joke”
I would say that this doesn’t make any sense. There is hardly any joke, that is politically correct.
It is my present view that, among the most recent, yet decently verified, findings in neurology may contain the final necessary pieces of the puzzle of human destructiveness, and that the destructiveness problem can be effectively solved merely by putting the already-found puzzle pieces together correctly.
For those who do not have a doctorate in bioengineering focused on human destructiveness, or something equivalent thereto, recent “Through the Wormhole” programs may make many aspects of recent neurological findings usefully understandable.
It seems to me that, because understanding human destructiveness is itself a human activity, the philosophical issue of self-reference in the basic form of set theory about sets which contain themselves as members may be at the core of solving and resolving the human destructiveness problem.
I tend to regard the Olympic Games as a form of theatre in which people can role-play various aspects of human destructiveness without the actual intent of murdering the supposed adversary.
Wish I had been there.
Oh yes, one major point.
Things are remembered when there is a story about them.
Even such things a number series can be dramatized so as to aid recalling them.
Were unnecessary tales related around the campfire?
No, only important things were dramatized to help remember the important things for life to remember.
Making history interesting is to make it as dramatic as it was when lived.
Of course, why are schoolbooks not written so.
Many reasons, as in all things:
—–safer so for historians
—–easier for historians
—–easier to quiz on
—–easier to set grades. grading essays is hard to do
—–easier to defencd grades
—–better discipline for children in learning to do rote work of lower class
—–easier to define the goals to the students, etc.
Lots more to add, but enough?
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