We’ve learned a lot this year. We’ve learned that Erick Pulgar can make us completely forget about Jordan Veretout. We’ve learned that Serie A is still incredibly racist. And, we’ve learned that a tweet by a sports executive can cause a geopolitical conflict between two of the largest nations in the world. Considering that last point, we should recognize and applaud when one of our players makes a stand for something, even if it’s through something as innocuous as an Instagram post.
A couple weeks ago, Erick Pulgar posted a photograph of protesters in Chile who are currently fighting against their oppressive government, along with a message in support of the movement.
Out of the world’s most industrialized countries, Chile’s wealth gap is among the largest. Though these recent protests were seemingly triggered by a small increase in subway fares, the constant inequality levied against Chile’s working class has been stewing for a long time. Take a look here if you want to catch yourself up on the history and what the protests are about.
While the government has attempted to appease protestors with a proposed increase to the minimum monthly income, no changes have been made that address the root of the issues that Chileans are fighting for. The government can hardly be trusted to act in the people’s best interest when over 2000 protestors have been detained, more than 500 have been injured, and nearly 20 have been killed—all within the first five days of the protests.
However, Chile is far from being the only country with these kinds of problems. In Turkey for example, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reformed the government so that he has nearly total control over the country. He has egregiously committed electoral fraud, murdered ethnic minorities in northern Syria, and committed countless other violations against the Kurds and the Turkish people.
This is particularly relevant to us, considering that another athlete, Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter, has been nothing short of vocal in his disapproval of Erdoğan. In response to Kanter’s criticism, Erdoğan’s regime has put out an arrest warrant against Kanter, raided the home of Kanter’s family, labeled his father as a terrorist, and even threw Kanter’s dentist in jail—just because Kanter used his position as an athlete to speak up against Turkey’s oppressive government.
This is the world that politically-active athletes have to live in today. Not only that, but Erick Pulgar has twice the number of followers on Instagram than Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has on Twitter—and Morey sparked an international conflict with just a single tweet.
We should be incredibly proud of Erick. We should be proud of Germán Pezzella and Federico Ceccherini for standing beside him and liking the Instagram post. It’s an incredibly risky and noble thing to stand up against your government as a public figure, and it means a lot more than we can understand. The least we can do is express our respect towards Erick for speaking up in support of his fellow Chileans, because it’s an important and selfless thing for him to do. It’s always nice to have another reason to support a Fiorentina player, and this is as good a reason as any.