Why Alex Honnold Walked in the Women's March

The pro climber caught flak on Instagram for straying into politics—but he says it's essential for athletes to speak out

"Sometimes I’m a little bit surprised that, you know, half of my followers feel strongly on the opposite side of an issue than I might. But the reality is that in America, it’s fairly evenly split on a lot of issues. " (Photo: via Instagram/@alexhonnold)

Last Saturday, a year after the 2017 Women’s March to protest President Trump, millions of men and women were at it again in cities across the world. Among them was climber Alex Honnold, attending his first political rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, who works as a life coach. The next day, he posted a few photos to Instagram of scenes from the rally with a decidedly un-controversial caption:

Many of his followers were not happy. “You snowflakes are the reason the rest of the world thinks Americans are total idiots!” was one typical response. Honnold followed it up a day later: 

So Outside called him up to talk about his recent foray into politics, the Women's March, and Instagram haters. 

“I’ve posted a lot about politics, public lands, gun control, and various issues over the years, and there’s always a fairly strong backlash. I have a diverse following that’s pretty representative of the general population, so I get the full spectrum of responses. I guess I was a little surprised, but I follow the news fairly closely, and I follow politics, and so I think I have a decent sense of how the country as a whole feels about different issues. Sometimes I’m a little bit surprised that, you know, half of my followers feel strongly on the opposite side of an issue than I might. But the reality is that in America, it’s fairly evenly split on a lot of issues.”

“I don’t think I’m capable of reading all people’s comments, but I certainly try. I think it’s sort of douchey if you don’t read the comments on things like that because I feel like if I’m starting a big conversation then I’m sort of obligated to at least read responses and learn from it and at least be receptive to other people’s sides. Which I am. I read as much as I can. I follow people’s links and I look into things when people post a well-reasoned counter-argument. But when you have some 20-year-old man saying that women shouldn’t be in charge of their own reproductive rights, you’re like ‘That’s kind of ridiculous. It kinda drives me crazy.”

“Two of the most powerful speakers at the rally in Vegas were two of the organizers of the original Women’s March. One of them, Linda Sarsour, is a Muslim American woman from Brooklyn, I think, but she frickin’ has the voice of like a 300-pound man from Jersey or something—it was outrageous. We kept joking that she was the hype man, because she would introduce people like ‘And comin’ up on stage is…’ It was so over the top and amazing.” 

“There was a lot of talk about the Native American community, and there was recognition that we were on southern Paiute land, and then they introduced the rally with the original Paiute dance and prayers. It felt more inclusive than I expected. I had heard that some of the criticism for the first Women’s March was that it was just a bunch of white ladies getting together and protesting Trump, and this definitely did not feel that way. I think part of it is the demographics of Vegas, but it was a very, very inclusive crowd, and there was a lot of talk about immigration and people of color and LGBTQ communities. There were three guys on the corner saying that we were all going to hell because of abortion, you know, with big posters of dead babies and things. But it was a pretty underwhelming counter protest.”

“It’s important to support people that need support as often as possible. The reality is that I’m a professional climber and I spend most of my time outdoors and climbing, but given the opportunity, it was a pretty impactful way to spend my day.”

Filed To: PoliticsClimbingLas VegasPublic LandsNevada
Lead Photo: via Instagram/@alexhonnold
More Adventure