Sport’Aide has been newly identified as Bearer of Children’s Right. The mobilization of more than 70 organizations will take advantage of the month of November to emphasize the rights of children. As part of this month, Sport’Aide proposes that you reflect on the tension between sport culture and that of human rights which is the basis for children’s rights.

Equality or inequality

We live in a democratic society governed by a democratic morality which can be summed up as human rights. […] And in the same society, sport is the subject of adulation, a perpetual stage show. […] The amazing part is that our democratic morality, human rights, is founded on the fact that all human beings are equal and that competitive sport is founded on the fact that all humans are inequal.” – André Comte-Sponville –

This paradox of equality and inequality of human beings raised by Comte Sponville goes unnoticed by most people. Yet, certain people feel it and it is the reason by they are repulsed by sport. What they see in this arena where inequality is celebrated by worshipping the best, is an attack against the fact that all human beings should be treated with the same respect. When we scratch the surface, we see that the paradox raised by André Comte-Sponville is a very real problem that deserves our attention.

However, we believe that we must stand firm for both equality and inequality. The reason being that we are not talking about the same equality or inequality. All human beings are equal in rights and dignity. In other words, the inherent worth of being a human being is enough so that each one should receive the same respect for their rights. That said, all humans are inequal in fact and in worth in that some run faster than others, some are more intelligent than others… or some respect human rights more than others. This means that if everyone deserves the same respect, not everyone deserves the same appreciation or even admiration.

I dream of a sport that would be a lesson for our children on these two points, which would remind them that all humans are equal in rights and in dignity. And that would help them understand that all humans are not equal in worth.” – André Comte-Sponville –

Sportsmanship

In sporting terms, yes, it’s better to try to win rather than lose, but this should never be done to the detriment of other athletes. Moreover, during an interview he granted us on this subject, Patrice Bergeron reminded us that it is very possible to combine combativeness and respect, to be highly competitive while maintaining good sportsmanship. Patrice is a striking example of this harmonious blend that he learned from his parents, coaches and mentors. That is why he deserves our esteem and admiration as a great athlete, but also a great man.

When I was growing up, I had coaches for whom you had to respect the opponent. Yes, we want to win. Yes, we want to compete, but there are no poor losers or poor winners… or starting to laugh at people.” – Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins, National Hockey League

This learning of sportsmanship, which is basically a combination of competition and human rights is the moral that we want to teach our children in a liberal democracy. Our economic system is based on this principle that everyone should compete to have the most possible capital, but that this competition should be framed by morality where each one respects human rights. Unfortunately, this morality is only masterfully taught in ethics courses at school, whereas it should be taught as the development of a skill, by being put into practice to be truly integrated. Sport does this by teaching sportsmanship.

Young people who benefit from an explicit teaching of this morality, like Patrice Bergeron, but who also have the opportunity to put it into practice day after day in their sport can develop an increased awareness of the inherent value of human nature. It is through this awareness that we can motivate people to respect and defend human rights. That is probably why during the recent surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was so easy, intuitive and obvious for Patrice to take a position and contribute financially to an organization to change things.

Personally, I believe that it comes down to human rights. It’s important. This cannot be a taboo subject in 2020. We have to talk about it…” – Patrice Bergeron-

In the end, sport is a great opportunity to get educated on this tension between competition and human rights. However, provided that it keeps the tension between these two poles. For example, if we curb competition, yes, young people will respect the rights of others, but only because they no longer feel any desire to win. They will not practice resisting this desire to respect the rights of others. It would be the same reflection if everything focused on competition. We lose this educational tension. Sport will only be used for the moral and human development of athletes if it allows this regulation of the desire to win to respect human rights to be practiced daily and explicitly.

If you want to look further into this topic, we invite you to watch or read the podcast that we did with Patrice Bergeron and which will be broadcast starting November 16, 2020 at https://sportaide.ca/balado-sportaide-tete-a-tete-avec/
In the meantime, you can also listen to the André Comte-Sponville’s interview with the Institut national du sport, de l’expertise et de la performance, which greatly inspired this blog, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq28ij1pPQQ&t=1500s

Enjoy!

Alexandre Baril
Project Manager Take action! Counter bullying in sports

Personally, I believe that it comes down to human rights. It’s important. This cannot be a taboo subject in 2020. We have to talk about it…

– Patrice Bergeron-