Stephen-Michael Thompson Jr — Washington, DC Metro Area
Socially, we are at a critical point in Sports history. Within the last few years, we’ve seen NBA players protest by wearing black, WNBA players protest for LGBT rights, Missouri’s football team go on a strike from practice, and a few NFL players kneel during the National Anthem. Although it’s nowhere enough, in my opinion, there’s been many occurrences of Athletes calling out social issues the last few years.
Before this era. We had Ali, John Carlos, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Now we have Colin Kaepernick, Lebron James, and Michael Bennett for examples. There are so many issues to tackle and social constructs to be destroyed. But despite the cause and fight, there’s usually one major phrase said by angry (& usually White sports fans) when social issues are brought up on sports casts, comment boards and social media.
That phrase is: Keep Politics Out of Sports
The phrase is usually used when some fans just don’t want to hear the truth about social issues and systematic oppression while watching sports programming. Let’s break the definition of the phrase down.
Here is a general definition of politics: “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power”. If you relate this definition to sports, it pertains to athletes and sports officials speaking on and protesting about politics on a sports platform (i.e pre games, press conferences, during games).
When fans blurt out this phrase, it’s controversial. Here’s why.
Why the Phrase is Controversial
This phrase is ignorant for many reasons. It’s ignorant because it shows a subjective bias to what some fans really want to hear and what NOT to hear. Protest and political issues have always been apart sports if people like it or not. People trying to block what they don’t want to hear is ignorant to their own knowledge. If some sports fans would listen and even observe what’s really going on, things would be different. Also, using the term politics is somewhat ignorant as well in this example. So many different social constructs have been mentioned in sports programming over time, just classifying something you don’t want to hear under “politics” is offensive to some and it. The term is technically used correctly, I agree to that. But it’s not just politics, it’s many things that affect Millions of people. Negating what people go through isn’t a respectful route to take.
Forces Athletes to only “stick to their sport”
When some athletes speak on Social Issues, a lot of replies and feedback from fans pertains to that certain athlete sticking to his or her sport. That is very controversial and it’s a problem within the sports world. It’s a problem because that’s what many people want athletes, stay quiet, make money, and produce. These athletes have lives when games and seasons are over, so if they want to speak on issues…they have the freedom. But it’s a downside to this. Especially with the Colin Kaepernick situation, many players are quiet mostly to the factor that they don’t want to risk their profit and playing career. It makes sense but it’s interesting. Many players within our favorite sports leagues are so focused on “sticking to their sport”, that they won’t call things out and speak against the status quo of racism and other social issues. It basically brings up the argument of modern day slavery. When saying “Stick to your sport”, it basically telling players to stick to the only reason why I watch you and don’t do anything else. Even for the owners in the NFL for example. They want players to produce and when calling out social issues comes at hand, many owners stray away. One reason why Kaepernick is still a free agent. It’s fear. Some fans and league officials know the platform that some athletes possess. The days of just “sticking to your sport” should end. But too many athletes are quiet, for various reasons.
— Robert Littal (@BSO) August 14, 2017
Even some athletes are so brainwashed to the point of telling their own peers to basically stick to their own craft. For example, Green Bay TE Jermichael Finley called protests by Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch and Seahawks DE Michael Bennett a “marketing tool”. He told them to be “role models” and to “shut up and play”. To fix the issues athletes face in and out of their work, more athletes need to bond together. Because obviously, all major sports in the USA are mostly watched by White People, and most of them won’t agree with the stances that Bennett and Kaepernick have been promoting as of late.
Why Saying the Phrase is Contradictory
Political Acts and Laws has Sports
It has taken political votes to desegregate college and high sports, approve new arenas/stadiums, and involve Women and other demographics into the sports world (Title IX). Although sports is mostly a private industry, Sports and Politics goes hand in hand. We have athletic commissions that have political input. We’ve even seen governors and City mayors ask leagues for expansion teams and the opportunity to get their city involved in sports. Due to this, keeping politics out of sports is kinda impossible. There’s always regulations and laws to follow, even for the Millionaire owners.
Political Observances Within Sports
Before any game, we have the observation of Flags and the National Anthem. And for bigger games, we have long solos, jets flying over the stadium, and pyrotechnics going off in the stadium…just for the National Anthem. The National Anthem has truly become a political act. It’s a great one but it’s still political. So complaining about politics in sports is a contradictory statement when a political observation takes place before every single game.
The society we live in is very flawed. People using their platforms to help fix the flaws are needed. Like I said before, protests have always been apart of sports. Athletes using the platform to do so works. Just look at how uncomfortable Colin Kaepernick has made people. It’s time to face the facts America. And for some athletes, it’s time to speak up.