A pair of activists who wrote a piece for the Detroit Free Press prove they haven’t learned the lessons of ESPN, and recently penned a piece urging athletes to use their sport as a platform for left-wing political activism.
For the Detroit paper, Jocelyn Benson and Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen M. Ross, who represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), wrote a piece last week informing players that they should “lead the push for social change.”
“At a time when we seem so deeply divided, sports have the potential to unite people behind positive change,” the pair opined.
The authors went on to praise the recent RISE partnership with several players to push the issues of “economic equality,” race, LGBTQ, and other left-wing ideas. And with that, the authors insisted that players should do more to engage in political issues on and off the field.
“With evidence of rising economic inequality, a divisive presidential election and debates on access to education and justice, ‘the problem of the color line’ emerged as perhaps the defining issue of 2016,” the pair wrote, alluding to the Black Lives Matter movement. “And the actions of athletes reflected this focus, as many used their platform to advocate for social change.”
With this claim established, they continued saying that “athletes, coaches, owners and others in the sports industry can effectively promote a better world.”
To spread their activism throughout sports, both professional and amateur, RISE produced a “report” that discussed a range of actions.
“They ranged from protests, public statements and wearing special apparel to collective action, community outreach, policy advocacy and financial contributions,” the Free Press piece continued. “The report also provides case studies of best practices from players for the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Liberty.”
The RISE authors went on to urge teams to create internal “forums” for players to be indoctrinated with the left-wing issues RISE pushes, to tell players to speak out early and often, and to kick up protests against the leagues and society for various rules and practices RISE finds distasteful.
Surprisingly, with all of the suggestions that Ross has for other teams and how to welcome in and promote activist athletes, his own team, the Dolphins, has yet to sign free-agent activist quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The op-ed concludes, saying, “As athlete activism continues, the sports industry should evaluate the impact of actions to inform work and progress.”
But, if ESPN’s experience is any indication, far from “solving inequality,” the constant drumming of liberal political ideals into sports and its coverage is turning fans off. Activism is causing fans to switch the channel at the least, or worse to quit their sports habit altogether.
With ESPN’s recent move to put a dampener on the left-wing activism of on-air hosts, it is clear that the powerhouse sports network is discovering that political activism ladled on top of sports coverage is a detriment instead of a balm that leads to “social change.”
For many fans, political activism leads to the diminished influence for athletes, leagues, and teams, not an increased awareness of social issues.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org