As I've discussed before, sports and politics continue to blur the lines in this country. This is different from some places such as Europe, where the two have long been deeply intertwined. But as sports commentators veer into political issues, the sports purist often gets bent out of shape in hopes that the sports industry will "stick to sports." For as long as sports have existed in America, sports have been an escape from reality — such as economic depression, war, political instability or just daily life. But as politics gets more feisty — and many want an escape — sports is often unable to provide such a relief.
1. ESPN or MSESPN?
It is not unfair to criticize ESPN's reporting practices. After the "Unite the Right" riots took place near the campus of the University of Virginia, ESPN pulled the plug on broadcaster Robert Lee's plan to work the game at UVA. Critics labeled the move as overly politicly correct and referred to the network as MSESPN in reference to MSNBC for trying to meddle in the political arena. To fuel the fire, the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" has also taken a very pro-player side in the constant battle over the NFL's anthem controversy. This has made many people question if the network is actively trying to politicize everything in our world today, something that has been very unpopular among people on both sides of the political spectrum.
2. Sticking to Politics?
If people are critical of ESPN over its involvement in politics, as they should be, then people need to be critical of politicians sticking their nose into the business of our sports leagues. Many people believe that every NFL player should have to stand for the national anthem, with their hand on their heart, before every game, or face repercussions. That is fine to believe and not out of the mainstream, as the NBA has such a policy and its predominantly left-leaning audience does not seem to care. But what is wrong is when the President of The United States starts to stick his nose in issues facing the sports world, dividing people while failing to provide a real solution, all while trying to turn this into a winnable political issue.
3. Blame Game
I'm not going to sugar coat this, choosing not to stand for the national anthem is a strong and potentially volatile move. It's a divisive issue that is going to stir more people up than satisfy, but where the critics have gone wrong is mislabel people like Colin Kaepernick. The former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback is politically an independent. That means he isn't conservative nor liberal. He did not vote in the presidential election because he did not align himself a with a major candidate, even going as far as saying Hillary Clinton should be in prison! Try telling the fine folks at Fox that as they continue their crusade against Kaep.
What has to happen is simple. Just as sports commentators ought to leave sports and athletes alone with political drama, it's on the mainstream political media and the politicians themselves to refrain from making polarizing comments about sports' business. The NFL's anthem situation is not perfect and neither will the solution be. But in order to "stick to sports," politics is going to have to "stick to politics."