American professional sports are morphing into just another segment from cable news.
If you’re like most people I know, you watch sports for the love of the game, the excitement of competition, the entertainment, and the escape from everyday pressures. Given the increasing politicization of American professional sports, that last one about escaping everyday news is not going to happen, at least not in 2020.
Consider these recent developments so far:
- “The NFL pledged to spend $250 million over the next decade to combat systemic racism and fight injustices against African-Americans.”
- “NFL is planning to play"Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black national anthem, before is expected to be performed live or played before every Week 1 NFL game,
- NFL is considering social justice patches on uniforms, helmets.
- NFL will stencil “End Racism” in end zones as part of its social justice effort for 2020 home openers.
- “WNBA revealed the "Black Lives Matter" decals it placed on its court prior to the start of the 2020 season.”
- Sports leagues will place “Black Lives Matter” messaging on attire.
- MLB will donate over $1M to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and several other social justice charities.
- Many MLB players, but not all, will kneel during the National Anthem.
- WNBA warm-up jerseys will feature social justice messages.
- NBA will paint “Black Lives Matter” murals on the courts at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and players will be permitted to wear personal messages on their jerseys.
- The Premier Lacrosse League will permit players to wear message patches on shooting shirts or leg sleeves or arm bands.
- New Jersey Devils install “Black Lives Matter” on their ice as part of their commitment to racial equality.
- The Washington Redskins changing their name to an interim Washington Football Team.
Drew Brees, long-time star quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and reputed all around nice guy, said in an interview that he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” then after enormous criticism from other players, Black and White, he apologized profusely for his “insensitive” remarks, as did his wife, repeatedly.
My point here is not that Brees said what he did, which a majority of Americans agree with, or that some people didn’t like it. My point is that he got ostracized for expressing the “wrong view,” i.e. he made what at one time was considered a patriotic statement and then was blasted for not aligning with the social justice views of multiple other players. Beyond that, he was not accorded his own freedom of speech and he chose to retract his statements, likely so he can play another year in the league.
Who now, in the NFL or any league, assuming they disagree with the direction the leagues are going, is going to speak up?
Perhaps it is U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, part owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA team, who penned a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert decrying the league's association with the "BLM" movement and suggested wearing American flag jerseys instead. Loeffler later appeared on Fox News to say "Black Lives Matter " is "based on Marxist principles" that could "destroy" the country.
She told ESPN. "I think we all agree the life of every African American is important. There's no room for racism in this country, and we have to root it out where it exists. But there's a political organization called Black Lives Matter that I think is very important to make the distinction between their aim and where we are as a country at this moment. The Black Lives Matter political organization advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family. It promotes violence and antisemitism. To me, this is not what our league stands for."
Some people question whether Loeffler, who has seemingly evidenced support for progressive causes in the past, may be using this recent sports controversy to prop up her senatorial campaign.
Since this time, several players and others associated with the league or the team have tried to get Loeffler ousted from ownership. Why? For expressing “the wrong views.”
In October 2019, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted on his personal account, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong. The NBA wants the China market, so when the Chinese government reacted negatively to the tweet a firestorm broke out resulting in Morey apologizing, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver offering a weak recognition of Morey’s free speech rights while all the while condemning the incident, Houston Rocket’s star James Harden apologizing to China, and NBA king LeBron James coming off looking like he endorsed China more than American values.
Why was this incident such an issue? It was the first national level story featuring personal social media privileges/rights vs corporate interests and accountability, and it involved freedom of speech, international politics, and money. Free speech lost the game. Follow the money.
These are but a few illustrations. The rush-to-political-correctness boulder is rolling down the mountain faster than anyone could have imagined. Major corporations, not least the sports leagues and teams, are turning into pretzels trying to assuage the woke-culture-bully.
They say this is about racial justice and police brutality, and undoubtedly for some athletes and executives it is just that. They hold sincere concerns, they work in a league comprised of majority Black athletes, they care, and I give them kudos for this.
I also salute and defend any athletes’ right to his or her freedom of speech, to say whatever and to use their sports fame to advance ideas they believe in. Back when, I wrote in support of Colin Kaepernick’s right to his views, even though I thought is method of conveying them by kneeling during the National Anthem was a mistake, and I did not like the imagery. I recognized that for him, this was not about the military or veterans or even the flag per se, yet for millions of others it was and still is, and he and subsequent players know this. Now he is being touted as a hero, yet Drew Brees, a far and away more talented and more important player in the league, is being tossed aside.
What I don’t think is wise, even if legal and within the leagues’ or teams’ rights to freedom of speech, is:
- a wholesale embrace of the organization Black Lives Matter, which is about many things other than Black lives, nearly all of them dangerous to the social fabric, including promoting abortion, “queer affirming” lifestyles, destruction of the family structure, dismantling of the current political system, even attacking Christianity.
The danger for the leagues is viewers who disagree with this ideology may choose to skip television coverage, much less paying exorbitant ticket prices, to see professional sports.
- the sudden not-thoroughly-considered groveling to the new woke doctrine that brooks no disagreement, then pushing it on their viewers. There is racism, and there are incidents of police brutality, but the level of purge this movement has attracted is not warranted by reality. Check the evidence.
Plus, the primary leadership of the movement can in no way be compared to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. That movement sought to achieve liberty and justice for all including Black people. Many within the Black Lives Matter movement today are working to destroy the system, the country, the values that make America and made America a land of opportunity, including for all races and ethnicities.
The danger for the leagues is that viewers will vote with their feet and walk away from the political propaganda.
I hope the politicization of professional sports tops out, but I am not optimistic. Right now, every professional sports league is trying to outdo the other one in its we-are-more-woke-than-thou. So they aren’t selling competition. They’re selling their version of social justice. I can watch that on cable news.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
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