It's not every day an athlete listens to Noam Chomsky. Then again, it's not every day I bring up American football.
I'm referring to the recent exit of John Moffitt from the NFL. Years of rigorously studying Chomsky are supposedly what made Moffitt give up playing the game he used to love, and the millions that went along with it. Although he gave a series of explanations for leaving, the fact that he retweeted a YouTube clip in which Chomsky discusses the role of sports in propaganda shows the main reason behind his decision. Moffitt has also expressed interest in "speaking his mind" via podcasts.
Unfortunately, most of what Chomsky has to say on sports is nonsense. According to him, sports are a diversion that allows the elites to maintain their control over the masses. Kind of like the cookies offered when you join the dark side.
Like anyone, however, Chomsky is a product of his time. It's very likely that having lived through the tumultuous 20th century prevented him from foreseeing the global impact that real football - or any sport - would have.
In recent years, European football has probably seen the most turning points in resolving and increasing awareness to a variety of social issues. Would people really pay as much attention to fighting for cures and ending discrimination if those issues were not associated with something that interested them? When people see FIFA's Say No to Racism campaign, Major League Soccer raising money for Breast Cancer research, or their favorite player visiting a sick child, there's no doubt they feel more compelled to get involved. I call that positive propaganda.
Most of all, however, Chomsky neglected discussing the connection between sports and feminism. European football has seen huge progress in expanding opportunities for women. There's Karren Brady, who was the first woman to become managing director at Birmingham City and is now vice-chairman of West Ham United. Both Birmingham City and West Ham are men's football clubs. Even the least football-savvy know who Mia Hamm is. Most recently, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame, at the same time as Sonia Bien-Aime became the first woman appointed to the CONCACAF executive committee. A few women have taken up assistant refereeing in men's leagues in Mexico and Russia. Women's leagues have begun to rise in popularity as well, in part thanks to - you guessed it - the mainstream media.
With its growing popularity in the United States and around the world, European football is the perfect vehicle for social change. It serves as an invisibility cloak, allowing fans and industry professionals to sow the seeds of progress while avoiding the backlash and labeling that can otherwise occur when topics like feminism are addressed in the mainstream media. It is a platform through which reporters, athletes and others can address issues in ways that those in politics can't.