There has been a lot of political debate and activism within the world of sports lately, whether it be players kneeling during the national anthem to protest Ferguson and other similar events, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the violence in Charlottesville, or some other incident.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has led the charge when it comes to bringing politics onto the stadium or arena when he began kneeing instead of standing while the national anthem was being played. Other athletes would later follow suit. Kaepernick has even gone so far as to publicly honor Fidel Castro after he died last November by wearing a Castro t-shirt and making pro-Castro remarks prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins, which resulted in a backlash from the Cuban-American population in the Miami area.
The practice of not standing during the national anthem being played has continued among various NFL players, prompting the Donald to launch criticism of them via Twitter, even demanding the NFL owners fire such players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has responded by defending the actions of the players, citing the First Amendment. Meanwhile, it has been reported that attendance of NFL games has dropped, as has the viewing of NFL games.
The feud between the Donald and athletes is not limited to the NFL. Stephen Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors stated that he was not interested in visiting the White House in January (during which they will play the Washington Wizards). The Donald responded by criticizing Curry and even rescinding the invitation, which in turn resulted in a backlash from the NBA.
Sports media has also joined the political arena. ESPN decided to not have its broadcaster Robert Lee call a football game between the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary because he happened to have the same name as Confederate General Robert E. Lee, whose statue being removed led to the violence in Charlottesville. In addition, ESPN’s SportsCenter co-host Jemele Hill referred to the Donald as a white supremacist.
Regardless of the political views of athletes and sports journalists, they would be wise to discuss politics on their own time, not while they are doing their jobs. In addition, those in sports media should not follow the path of the liberal mainstream media by letting their journalistic standards decline.
In fact, they would be better off by abiding by the policy of Abe Rosenthal, a former editor of the New York Times. Rosenthal’s policy towards reporters’ opinions was simple: they belonged in the opinion pages, not the news stories they were supposed to be covering. Such a policy was implemented because Rosenthal knew many reporters were liberal and tried to sneak their views into their articles.
If only today’s sports media (and all other media outlets for that matter) would do the same.