May 2023

Body positivity tells us our bodies are fine, sports disagree

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The clash between body positivity, a global obesity epidemic, and athletic performance is a topic that requires thoughtful consideration.

The Miami Heat, a franchise known for their success and ability to maximize the potential of their players, including their massive number of undrafted athletes, has implemented a strict requirement of maintaining a body fat percentage under 9%. This demand, although unheralded and not replicated by many other teams, has undoubtedly contributed to their achievements on the court.

However, it raises questions about the balance between prioritizing performance and respecting an athlete's personal boundaries and comfort with their own body.

The Miami Heat's emphasis on maintaining a low body fat percentage is driven by their commitment to optimizing athletic performance. By imposing this requirement, the team aims to ensure that players are physically fit, agile, and able to endure the rigorous demands of professional basketball. It is an approach that has yielded success for the franchise, allowing them to get the most out of their players and cultivate a winning culture.

Their success has also been an outlier, their success being at odds with the "superstar" laden super teams that have dominated recent team building trends. Miami has only Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo as recognized star players but are often excluded from being categorized as superstars (although Jimmy Butler is a bona-fide top player in the NBA and other than 2x (should be 3) MVP Nikola Jokic, there's not anyone performing better).

Jokic challenged himself to lose weight in order to improve his conditioning, and Kyle Lowry was forced to address being overweight by Pat Riley the Heat GM. This begs the question... if there's a direct correlation between conditioning and positive performance, should this positive outcome be part of the dialogue when even the players have acknowledged that it's in their best interest, and looking out for them even if it isn't ideal and requires a lot more work and discipline?

The views which prioritize performance over personal body positivity and comfort, present a conflict that needs to be carefully examined.

On one hand, the Miami Heat's approach highlights the potential benefits of maintaining certain physical standards to enhance performance and overall team success. On the other hand, it raises concerns about the impact on an athlete's mental well-being, body acceptance, and clash between a movement that prioritizes acceptance and cancels the opposition.

The challenge lies in reconciling arguments that discount or ignore the alternative benefits derived from prioritizing performance and conditioning. While body positivity is undoubtedly important, it is crucial to recognize that in the context of professional sports, where winning and performance are paramount, teams may make decisions that seem at odds with the feelings of their players. The Miami Heat's success with undrafted players and their commitment to performance-based standards prompt us to consider the potential value of such an approach in our own lives and our loved ones.

It is essential to approach this discussion with nuance and an understanding of the unique dynamics within the world of professional sports. Athletes, coaches, and organizations must strike a balance that promotes both performance and the overall well-being of athletes. This may involve providing support systems that prioritize mental health, body image education, and open dialogue to address the potential conflicts that arise between body positivity and performance demands.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference to non-professional athletes. But, it is equally important while discussing topics such as body positivity that information that supports opposing conclusions are also presented, and not in a binary good vs bad methodology. Sometimes good can be bad, and bad can be good.

It is important to have ongoing discussions on how to navigate the tension between performance-driven expectations and individual body acceptance. By recognizing the nuances of this issue and fostering an environment that supports athletes' overall well-being, we can work towards a more inclusive and balanced approach in the realm of sports and body positivity.

We live in a pros vs cons world where most information is delivered with polarized objectives and bias. The Miami Heat are an example where the greater good for a team is a microcosm of the considerations that must be accounted for by a global population that is becoming increasingly obese due to a global obesity epidemic.

There's also ample opportunities and incentives for corporate exploitation to hijack and exploit these causes for financial gain. We must make sure all beneficial perspectives are presented in a way that is objective and not subject to the biased furtherance of an agenda.

Issa Hall, Esq

Issa has founded multiple ventures, is an author, and founding partner of Hall & Dixon law firm, with over a decade of experience in tech and law.

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