Sports are a Unifier, Which is Why Politics in Sports is so Troublesome
Sports are not supposed to be political. Yes, there are times when sports get political, and there are even times when sports must get political, but when you constantly inject politics into sports you are doing a disservice to the nation. Sports are a unifier. They are supposed to be one of the purest ways to bring people together and overcome obstacles like economic status, skin color, and sexual orientation.
Sports–with its codified rulebooks–declares at the outset of every competition, “everyone here has come to compete on a fair footing, and how you got here is of no significance once the game starts.” You do not get extra points because you overcame poverty, racism, or being gay… the same way you do not get extra points for being rich, never experiencing racism or being straight. Sports are a unifier and when we inundate sports with politics we create a more dangerous atmosphere to live in.
With the NBA and MLB going full bore into the Black Lives Matter movement, there is an increasing outcry from people to leave the politics out of sports. The response to that outcry has been one of shaming, both of the fans and of individual players. That is why it is so important to leave politics out of sports. When the very DNA of a sport is intertwined with politics, there is no longer a reprieve for anybody, whether it be a fan or an athlete. Fans that have problems with seeing “Black Lives Matter” on NBA courts and MLB mounds are seen as racist for speaking out and merely wanting a place devoid of politics.
But it is worse for players who are literally standing for the national anthem. The furor over the national anthem debate has become so partisan, merely standing and showing respect is coming under fire. The two players who have refused to kneel at any time are MLB’s San Francisco Giants’ Sam Coonrod, and the NBA’s Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac. They have both received tons of backlash for the act and even more for their reasoning.
The common thread between the two players of the two different sports is that they are both devout Christians. Coonrod’s response was simply, “I’m a Christian… So I just believe that I can’t kneel before anything besides God.” For Jonathan Isaac, the reasoning was somewhat similar, “I don’t think that kneeling or putting on a T-shirt, for me personally, is the answer. For me, black lives are supported through the gospel, all lives are supported through the gospel.”
*Editor’s Note: You can read my thoughts on Kneeling right here*
If Sports are a Unifier, Politics in Sports is Dangerous
There is a scary thing happening right now with all the politics in sports. Whereas sports are a unifier or at least supposed to be a unifier, when sports become intrinsically political, there is nowhere else to go to get away from politics. Think about the last major sporting event you went to (I know, hard to do when you are in quarantine, but try hard for me here). How many people were there? Between 20-80,000 people, right? What did you care about the most? If the person next to you was a Republican or a Democrat? Of course not. No, you only cared about whether they were rooting for your team or your player. That is all. Short, simple, and to the point.
That is what sports are supposed to be. Sports are a unifier, they bring everybody together and make everything simple; are you with me, or are you against me? You have probably high-fived, hugged, and maybe even kissed–depending on how into certain moments you get–somebody whose political leanings make you want to punch them. However, in the sports arena, all of that goes out the window. You do not care one iota whether they are a MAGA wearing red-faced bafoon from Harrison, Arkansas, or a mohawk sporting black trans person from Detroit. So long as you both are wearing the same colors, you have yourself a kinship… at least for a couple of hours. That is what makes sports so beautiful.
Sports overcome all the petty politics people get so passionate about. Instead, sports give an outlet for that passion and–most importantly–lets you interact with people you would otherwise not touch with a 10-foot pole. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? From where I stand, a moment of togetherness is worth 1,000 moments of fighting. We need those moments of togetherness much more than we need moments of fighting right now.
Sports are a unifier that tells people, “no matter our differences, we can find common ground.” In a moment of time–where common ground is so hard to find–it is dangerous to allow politics to creep into sports. In fact, it is our duty to make sure sports remain a unifier. Because we need these moments now more than ever. And I am afraid that if we allow sports and politics to wed, we will lose the one true unifying force in America. If that happens, we will lose sports, and soon after, we will lose America.