This week on the Talkin' Ducks podcast, host Sasha Spencer welcomed Dr. Courtney Cox, an Assistant Professor in Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon.
Cox, a former ESPN and Los Angeles Spark employee turned professor with a fascination with the intersection between sports and social studies, thinks there's progress to be made in the relationship between fans and athletes.
"There's a weird expectation when we say that athletes represent us, right?" she explained. "You play for my hometown so you represent me, right? There's a lot of pressure put on athletes just off of that."
With the prevalence of drafts in professional sports, it's rare for an athlete to decide to go to an organization to begin its career. However, those teams' fanbases grow an attachment to the players and take any decisions personally, citing the players' selfishness rather than them just acting in their own self interest.
Cox mentions how in America, winning anything other than the gold at the Olympics is deemed as a failure, especially when that athlete's considered representing the country as a whole.
The toxic relationship doesn't end there, either.
"There's a reckoning that we have to have in sports [such as] an owner that owns players, the way that someone belongs to a city, we really have to rethink our relationship to not only that language but the way that we have a hold on young people's lives who happen to be good at sports."
These players are more than just athletes. Cox credits players who speak out against social issues, using their platforms given to them by sports to enact change outside of that space.
Hopefully, it continues to change.