Contributor Perspectives

A Pair of Photo Ops Blurs the Lines Between Athlete and Activist

Austin Duckworth
Board of Contributors
Oct 1, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
The Turkish city of Zonguldak used a photo of German soccer star Mesut Ozil posing with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a ceremony in which a city street was named for the footballer, who has Turkish ancestry.

People in the Turkish city of Zonguldak gather on July 24, 2018, during a street-naming ceremony honoring German soccer star Mesut Ozil, who has Turkish ancestry. The billboard pictures Ozil posing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It reads, 'Mesut Ozil Street.'

(AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently returned from a trip to Germany, where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an attempt to ease the strained relationship between their countries. Among the issues between them remains Ankara's response to the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. After the dust settled, Erdogan led a large and wide-ranging purge that included the arrest of over 50,000 civil servants, including dual German-Turkish nationals, drawing criticism from Berlin. But one of the latest sources of tension stems not from aftershocks of the failed revolution, but rather from a seemingly simple photograph. Before the World Cup soccer tournament in Russia over the summer, Erdogan posed for photos at a charity event with three Premier League players: Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and Everton forward Cenk Tosun. All three have Turkish roots but grew up in Germany. And Ozil and...

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