With the ubiquitous reach of social media, influencers are becoming increasingly central to the articulation of political agendas on a range of topics. We curate a sample of tweets from the 200 most followed sportspersons in India and the USA since 2019, map their connections with politicians and visualise their engagements with key topics online. We find significant differences between the ways in which Indian and US sportspersons engage with politics—whereas leading Indian sportspersons tend to align closely with the ruling party and engage minimally in dissent, American sportspersons engage with a range of political issues and are willing to publicly criticise politicians or policy. Our findings suggest that the ownership and governmental control of sports affect public stances on issues that professional sportspersons are willing to engage in online. Also, depending on the government of the day, speaking up against the state and the government in power has different socioeconomic costs in the USA and India.
Image: Lars Plougmann via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)