SportsBusiness Journal has chosen President Trump as its most influential person in sports for 2016. However, the publication was not necessarily happy with the outcome, saying that the award sparked a long and heated debate.
“This isn’t the choice we wanted to make,” the magazine’s editor explained that the reason the debate was difficult is because Donald Trump’s influence has not altogether been “a positive for the industry.”
“But when pressed to decide who had the greatest influence—positive or negative—on the sports business this year, it came down to an individual outside of sports who had the business on its back foot since he arrived on the political scene in 2015,” Executive Editor Abraham D. Madkour wrote.
“For his angry, loud and visceral rhetoric that has divided the sports industry and caused massive reaction, response and reflection, President Donald Trump is Sports Business Journal/Daily’s Most Influential Person in Sports Business,” Madkour continued.
The editor went on to describe the many examples of how President Trump has had the sports world chasing its tail all year. Of course, there was Trump’s very public disgust over the National Football League’s national anthem protests. Then Madkour noted the president’s direct attacks on ESPN for allowing its hosts to spew their left-wing politics. And then there were the many teams and players who have erupted in loud proclamations saying they would never visit a Trump White House. In all, Donald Trump has been the main driver of discussion in America’s sports scene.
Also, Trump was a driving factor for sports discussion on his Twitter account, Madkour noted. As evidence, the Journal cited some 15 tweets on various sports topics that appeared on Trump’s Twitter feed.
SBJ went on to recount Trump’s altercations with basketball father LaVar Ball, his feuds with sports figures such as Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and a long list of others.
There is also golf. Without question, Trump has been an ever-present influence this year for golf, not just with his love of playing the game—not to mention the big name sports figures who have joined him on the links —but also because many of his resorts have hosted important professional tournaments throughout the year.
So, in the end the choice became obvious, the Journal wrote:
BOTTOM LINE: Nothing drove more attention to — and response from — the sports industry than Trump. The amount of media attention was overwhelming. Editors at SportsBusiness Journal and Daily can attest that no single individual had a constant thread throughout the sports business in 2017 like he did, resulting in massive coverage, press inches and points of view. Frankly, organizations were unprepared for how to handle Trump’s verbal spars, and most were downright uncomfortable and afraid to address it. The amount of times a top executive told me before a public interview, “Just don’t ask about Trump,” is too many to count and shows the delicate nature of how hot and polarizing Trump has become.
For better or worse, no American has had more influence over sports this year than President Donald Trump.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.