In a long piece at ESPN, Jayson Stark criticized Major League Baseball for avoiding the pitfalls besetting the NFL and the NBA as players dive into liberal political causes and insisted that baseball should be used as a platform to drive social politics.
Stark begins his article noting that some baseball clubs warn players that if they start talking politics, they should mentally prepare for a backlash from at least half their fans no matter what political stance they take.
“The platform of the baseball player is a very powerful one,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says in a video shown to players. “It’s a free country, and you can always utilize that platform whenever you so choose. But just know, when you choose to do so, what the potential ramifications are.”
Cashman also cautions players that if they choose to jump into the world of politics, swimming in that pool means “no lifeguard” and they will likely swim against the tide.
The New York Yankees aren’t the only team to remind players that using baseball for politics could be problematic. But, those warnings fall flat for ESPN’s Stark. “Is 2017 the time for a new code of conduct?” Stark writes. “Is it time for a more socially aware culture — in this, the sport of Jackie Robinson?”
Clearly Stark thinks the era of Trump is worse — or at least as bad — as the days when African Americans did not have equal rights.
Stark next brings MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd into his piece. Todd, evidently a big baseball fan, has written on the topic of politics in baseball. But, even Stark had to report Todd’s conclusion that baseball is about “escape” instead of a political battlefield.
Todd also notes that baseball didn’t “heal anything.”
“That’s why I look at baseball as more of an ‘escape’ than a ‘heal’ … unless some players stand up and decide to heal,” he said.
Stark, though, is quite unhappy that baseball is the one major sport that leaves politics at the ballpark’s doors. He seems to want baseball to wallow in the same controversies visited upon the NBA and the NFL as players continue to speak out on liberal politics.
But has the extreme politics of the NBA and the NFL been a boon to their respective sport? The NFL, for instance, has lost fans and seen TV ratings crash since quarterback Colin Kaepernick began his anti-American protests by refusing to stand for the national anthem. In fact, it has become so bad that the drop off in ratings and the loss of advertising money has been called “the Kaepernick effect.”
The saturation of politics in sports has also affected sports organizations outside the big professional leagues. ESPN, for instance, has been losing up to 10,000 subscribers a day as the cable network continues its drive toward left-wing politics. Customers of the sports cable network grew so upset and vocal about the liberal politics infused with its sports coverage that the network’s ombudsman felt it necessary to investigate the complaint. The result did nothing to assuage customer’s worries.
For his part, though, ESPN’s Jayson Stark seems utterly oblivious to these problems as he urges Major League Baseball to put its game on the back burner in order to jump into the arena of politics to attack Donald J. Trump.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.