As someone who is constantly consuming sports in a variety of fashions, I’ve noticed a drastic change in sports coverage in recent years. The change started slowly, but during this most recent election it reached seemingly unstoppable heights.
I am discussing the mix of sports and politics.
Sports have always been used as a metaphor for more important issues, as well as a temporary escape from real life problems. After a long day of working hard, facing all of the issues in their world, most sports fans want to sit on their couch, prop their feet up, crack open a beer and watch a game to catch up on what they missed in the sports world.
Nowadays, however, sports are no longer an escape from the issues in the world, but another platform for those issues.
Growing up, I would come home from school and turn on ESPN, which meant watching light-hearted banter about the previous night’s games. Now, doing that would just mean having political ideology shoved down my throat.
Professional athletes are citizens just like everyone else and have the right to their own opinions. They also have a platform that most people don’t have, and they have the right to use it however they’d like.
However, it seems today that athletes are constantly pressured into having very public political opinions that are subsequently attacked if they don’t align perfectly with those of the people pressuring them to do so.
Most of the talk surrounding this past years’ Super Bowl seemed to be around New England Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady’s relationship with Donald Trump, rather than the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck recently said that he has purposely not been politically outspoken because of his fear that what he says will be misrepresented and misinterpreted. Often, athletes coming out with strong political opinions will stir up more controversy than they will help settle.
Furthermore, many people worship certain athletes to an unhealthy level, and while I’d like to believe this doesn’t happen too often, there are a decent number of people who may vote for a candidate simply because their favorite athlete endorsed that candidate. Athletes are celebrities, and they can have enormous influence on impressionble viewers.
But sports and politics are not supposed to mix. It’s like having broccoli for dessert.
Personally, my two favorite athletes are Tom Brady and LeBron James. Tom Brady has come under fire by certain media types for having a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker during the Republican primary. LeBron James publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton during the general election.
The fact that Tom Brady may or may not have voted for Donald Trump has no effect on how much I want Brady to throw touchdowns and win Super Bowls. Similarly, the fact that LeBron voted for Hillary Clinton gives me no less enjoyment in watching him throw down monstrous dunks and leading 25-point comebacks in the playoffs.
The idea that those players’ political opinions should be known or analyzed in any meaningful way seems absurd to me, and they have no effect on my viewing experience.
To me, this unbiased enjoyment is how sports should be appreciated. There’s a reason that sports have their own section in the newspaper, and that is because it is something else entirely from the rest of the news. Sports should be an outlet of escape for fans to enjoy, not another source of potentially stressful political commentary.
The sports page will discuss achievements, while more often than not the front page is a collection of man’s failures.
As we continue through this era where sports and politics continue to overlap, I’m reminded of something my dad told me before going to college.
“When something becomes political, it ceases to serve those whom it was intended to serve,” he said.
Sports are entertainment, and in this current era, its consumers are being alienated rather than being served.