Washington D.C.-based political newspaper, The Hill, recently published an editorial insisting that Donald Trump has “roiled the sports world,” as players, coaches, and teams rush to microphones to garner a few minutes of notoriety with pronouncements in opposition to the president.
The long piece published on February 14 claimed that Trump’s “divisive political climate” has leaked from the entertainment world and “extended into the sports world.” The piece then went on to list a number of players who have come out with political statements to denounce Trump and Republicans. The list included players such as LeBron James — who has dabbled in political statements for years — Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, and the latest story of the six members of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots who have announced they won’t attend the White House event to celebrate their win.
Despite its main premise that Trump is “roiling” the American sports scene, the paper followed its opening paragraphs with a series of half a dozen examples of players acting out politically long before Donald J. Trump entered the White House.
Even with those examples, the paper committed the glaring error of forgetting about the long-time activism by players such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Worse, the paper even ignored the (at the time) eyebrow-raising “Ali Summit,” when Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and a group of other African American sportsmen gathered together in support of Ali’s refusal to serve in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Even more absurdly, the article completely ignored the anti-American, Black Lives Matter activism of San Francisco 49ers second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick whose disrespect for the national anthem spawned months of copycat statements across several sports leagues, all of which started many months before Donald Trump became president.
In fact, by some reckoning, Kaepernick’s virulent hate for the U.S.A. and America’s police, soldiers, and first responders single-handedly destroyed the NFL’s ratings, driving viewership into the basement via what many are calling the “Kaepernick effect.” This all occurred before Trump won the election.
Despite the decades of political activism emanating from the world of sports, The Hill is sure that it is all somehow Donald Trump’s fault.
“But the number of Patriots defections, coupled with public statements by other athletes critical of Trump, suggests the fissure in the sports world over the president will be greater than anything seen before,” the paper wrote.
The paper clearly overstates the “Trump effect” on “roiling” sports because players have been falling all over themselves to gain the accolades of the liberal sports press corps at least since the dawn of the violent Black Lives Matter movement two years ago.
Indeed, the press has been at the heart of pushing players to turn political by urging them to do so in columns and in “reporting.”
Just to name a very few recent examples of the sports media driving American sports toward politics, there was the op-ed by USA Today sports writer Nancy Armour who attacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for daring to like Donald Trump, the sports writer who wrote a piece saying Jim Brown’s 50 years of civil rights activism was erased merely because he said something complimentary about Trump, the attack on former Red Soxer Curt Schilling by New York sports writer Wallace Matthews, and finally the time sports commentator Shannon Sharpe was heard urging members of the Patriots to boycott their visit to the White House.
The above instances of media-sponsored political activism only happened in the last few weeks. It doesn’t even mention the many times those in sports media urged players to renounce Republican ideas or otherwise pushed politics into sports at least since the election of George W. Bush.
But, the leagues aren’t destroying their fan base just over Donald Trump, either. Just this week the NFL warned the State of Texas that if its legislature pursues a bathroom bill like North Carolina did last year, the league may boycott the Lone Star State, and the NFL’s move was only the latest in the bathroom law war, after the NBA, NCAA, and ACC boycotted North Carolina over its bathroom law.
With each instance of a basketball player, a football player, or some other sportsman mouthing off about politics, another handful of fans turn away, and the ratings show it.
In the end, the claim made by The Hill, itself a political newspaper, blaming Donald Trump for some sudden-perceived shoehorning politics into sports is simply absurd. It’s been going on for decades.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.