Gatekeepers make sports inaccessible

A lack of empathy in sports culture is hurting everyone

Sports shouldn’t be an excuse for discrimination.

Gatekeepers are ruining sports for everybody. 

Elitism exists in all corners of pop culture. Nobody enjoying any entertainment form—from music to sports—is truly safe from gatekeepers standing high atop their pedestals. These purists are always ready to pounce on casual fans with stale critiques about whatever hot new thing isn’t upholding their pretentious standards. 

Being a critical thinker and being an elitist gatekeeper, however, are two different things. Lamenting DaBaby’s newest song for being repetitive and meaningless is not the same as weaponizing an informed opinion to exclude or intimidate people. The latter happens quite frequently in one realm of pop culture that should unite people: sports. 

For many sports fans, their happiness is inseparable from their favourite teams—the wins are pure bliss, and the losses are devastating. Riding the rollercoaster is intoxicating; the thrill of being along for the ride during a tense moment is topped only by the ensuing celebration. Accepting the heartbreak of some inevitable losses is part of the equation, too. 

This passion is fuel for rivalries. Some fanbases are bred to hate each other; the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadians go together like blueberries and ketchup. Ask any New York Yankees fan what they think of the Boston Red Sox at your own risk. These rivalries aren’t personal, but some people take it way too far. 

Simply put, being a passionate fan isn’t an excuse to be a jerk. 

The logo on someone’s chest is not symbolic of their character. Most fans pick their favourite based on who their parents or friends support. As much as it pains stubborn fans to admit, there often isn’t a deeper meaning behind someone cheering for a specific team. 

Yet, far too often, team loyalty is where gatekeeping begins. Snobby fans too often wage war against those who don’t support their team. When this detest toward outsiders incites physical altercations, the message is clear for casual fans: get real or go away. 

Gatekeeping isn’t exclusive to fandom, either. Elitists often mock casual fans for not knowing the names and positions of every player on the field. Love is blinding; these die-hard fans don't remember their naivety when they first got into the game. Intentional or not, this elitist attitude drives away would-be fans. 

This ignorance hurts women the most. 

Sports are a male-dominated industry. Zero women play in any of the 10 most profitable sports leagues worldwide, but their absence from prominent sports culture reflects misogyny rather than ability. Delegitimizing Serena Williams' or Simone Biles' accomplishments by labelling them exceptions perpetuates gender stereotypes that science has shown to be much more nuanced.

It’s too bad gatekeepers aren’t interested in statistics that matter. These elitists are quick to embarrass a woman for asking a question about the rules but slow to recognize women athletes worldwide who could smoke their favourite players. Unfortunately, this hostility prevents countless women from getting into sports—both as fans and participants. 

Sports shouldn’t be a tool to discriminate. The games we love are an opportunity to unite over a shared passion. 

Remember gatekeepers: these games are supposed to be fun, not harmful. 

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