An Olympic Disaster: When Representatives Bring Disgrace

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The abysmal ratings of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic opening ceremony reflect America’s frustration with woke athletes who care more about virtue signaling, social media, and their personal brand than the sport they play or the country they supposedly represent. Across all platforms, only 17 million people observed the ceremony—despite fans and family members being required to watch from home, due to Tokyo’s strict COVID-19 restrictions. “The Tokyo opener TV audience declined 37% from 2016, when 26.5 million people watched the Rio de Janeiro Games opener,” reports Reuters, “and 59% from 2012, when 40.7 million people watch the London ceremony.”[1]

Excluding the news media, this 33-year low in Olympic television ratings is not surprising anyone.[2] It was even predicted.[3] Prior to the opening ceremonies, a Zeta Global poll found that “More than 60% of Americans were unable to express excitement or interest in the summer games, and at least 45% of Americans confirmed they are NOT looking forward to the games in any capacity.”[4][5] Americans are simply fed-up with woke protests at sporting events.

Only 32% of Americans believe Olympic athletes should be permitted to engage in political protests, but this has not dissuaded our Olympians. While on the podium at the Olympic trials, Gwen Berry, a hammer thrower who placed third, turned away from the American flag and draped a t-shirt reading “Activist Athlete” over her head as the national anthem played.[6] BMX Freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe, who qualified as an alternate, said last year, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.”[7] The U.S. women’s soccer team took a knee during their opening Olympic match to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.[8] The women’s soccer team, along with both the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams, skipped representing America in the parade of nations at the opening ceremony.[9] And the star of the women’s gymnastics team, Simone Biles, dropped out in the midst of the competition to focus on her own “mindfulness,”[10] telling reporters, “This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself when I came in – and I felt like I was still doing it for other people.”[11]

Far from serving as ambassadors on the global stage, these Olympians are disgracing the very country they represent. They may be dressed in American colors, but they certainly do not stand for traditional American values. This is infuriating, as is evidenced by the way Americans celebrated the humiliating loss of the U.S. women’s soccer team to Sweden. Columnist for the Daily Wire Matt Walsh tweeted, “I’m so happy they lost. I’m actively rooting against US women’s soccer. I want them to be humiliated and embarrassed, just as they humiliate and embarrass our country.”[12][13]

Americans are increasingly ignoring, and even resenting, these woke athletes. By choosing to represent the version of America they imagine rather than the America that exists, they’ve made a mockery of themselves, their country, their sport, and their cause. Whether this is rooted in well-intentioned ignorance or opportunism, it feels right that they should be increasingly relegated to the sideline. After all, as Americans, we do not appreciate being misrepresented to the world.

However, we are not alone in this sentiment. God also does not appreciate being misrepresented to the world. Is it possible that God may feel a similar resentment toward us who are so poorly serving as His ambassadors?

According to 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” Nevertheless, many of us have increasingly become more interested in virtue signaling, social media, and building our personal brand than we are in accurately representing God and His values. When we as Christians tolerate, accept, and even champion ideas and values that contradict God’s Word, we stand in protest of God—the very one we supposedly represent. How then are we any different from the Olympians we begrudge?

When we accept homosexuality as a meaningful form of love, we fail to represent the God who created relationships and gender with a specific design and purpose in mind. When we refuse to resist pro-transgender curriculum and policies, we fail to represent the God who overturned tables in the temple and whipped vendors for defiling sacred space. When we champion Black Lives Matter’s characterization of people based solely upon skin color, we fail to represent the God who sacrificed Himself to remove the dividing barrier of racial hostility by uniting us into one people of God.

As God’s representatives, we do not have the right to mischaracterize Him and His values. When we excuse the murder of unborn babies, we fail to represent the living God who places a premium on human life. When we tolerate fake news, government lies, and censorship, we fail to represent the God of truth, in whom is found no deceit. When we allow fear to keep us from confronting sin in our communities, we fail to represent the God who spoke truth to power and was killed for it. When we are silent about God’s warnings of national judgment, we fail to represent the God who stands as the righteous judge. And when we decline to share the gospel with others, we fail to represent the God who is not willing that any should perish.

Before we celebrate the demise of woke Olympians making fools of themselves and those they represent, let us first ensure that we are not falling into the same pit. Why shouldn’t we also be sidelined for our misrepresentations? Christians who protest their God are just as disgraceful as Olympians who protest their country. Unlike our Olympians, we may not think of ourselves as protesters, but through our actions—and at times our inaction—it has become clear that many of us also don’t think of ourselves as representatives of God.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Coster, Helen. “Tokyo Olympics Opening Draws 16.7 Million U.S. TV Viewers, a 33-Year Low.” Reuters, July 24, 2021, 8:56, p.m., EDT. [1]

2. Coster.

3. Steigrad, Alexandra. “NBC Faces Ratings Flop as COVID Plagues Tokyo Olympics.” Media. New York Post, July 21, 2021, 7:26 p.m.

4. Greenberg, Jay. “Olympics Ratings Expected to Crash, Research Suggests ‘Woke’ Athletes Partly to Blame.” News. Neon Nettle, July 24, 2021, 1:00 a.m.

5. The findings of the Zeta Global poll were consistent with an Ipsos poll. (“Tokyo Olympics Draw Muted Interest.” Ipsos, July 2021.

6. Dedaj, Paulina. “Gwen Berry Turns Back to US Flag During National Anthem at Olympic Trials, Says She Was ‘Set-up.’” Sports. Fox News, June 27, 2021.

7. Re, Gregg and Evie Fordham. “US Olympic Athlete Chelsea Wolfe Threatened to Burn Flag on Podium.” Sports. Fox News, June 21, 2021.

8. Newman, Jack. “US and Team GB Women’s Football Teams Take the Knee before Their Opening Tokyo 2020 Matches – but Olympic Social Media Teams ‘Are Banned from Showing It.’” News. Daily Mail, July 21, 2021, 6:30 a.m., EDT. Last updated July 21, 2021, 10:29, a.m., EDT.

9. Macur, Juliet and Alexandra Petri. “Some Famous American Faces Were Missing from the Parade of Nations.” New York Times, July 23, 2021. Last updated July 28, 2021, 2:38 a.m., ET. Coates, Erin. “AWFUL. Women’s Soccer Team Skips Representing United States at Olympic Opening Ceremony.”

10. Zempel, Kylee. “There’s No ‘I’ in Team, but There Is in Simone Biles.” Federalist, July 27, 2021.

11. Davidson, John. “Sorry, Simone Biles, the Olympics Isn’t about You, It’s about Winning for America.” Federalist, July 27, 2021.

12. Walsh, Matt (@MattWalshBlog). 2021. “I’m so happy they lost. I’m actively rooting against US women’s soccer. I want them to be humiliated and embarrassed, just as they humiliate and embarrass our country.” Twitter, July 21, 2021, 8:52 a.m.

13. Prestigiacomo, Amanda. “On Heels of Stunning Loss, U.S. Women’s Soccer Gets Brutalized Online for ‘Woke’ Protesting.” Daily Wire, July 21, 2021.


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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