Opinion | Stop complaining about politics being in sports

By Nick Johnson, columnist

For an enormous number of people, sports are seen as an escape from the “problems of the real world.” Ardent sports fans — myself included — can attest that kicking back in a comfortable chair with a cold drink in hand to watch your childhood team compete on live television invokes a feeling of nirvana without fail.

For just a few short hours, the weight of the world seems to disappear. Our country’s mishandling of the coronavirus has left everyone frustrated and scared? Flip on the TV and watch Luka Doncic drop 43 points and hit a game-winning three. Election season is a predictable and disappointing mess yet again? Worry about that later, go watch Ian Happ hit a couple rockets into the bleachers. 

No matter what’s going on in the world, sports can always be relied on to provide a temporary refuge for your troubled brain — that is, until the athletes refuse to play.

The past four months have seen the United States reach and maintain a boiling point in the fight for civil justice and against police brutality. The action taken in response to numerous inexcusable police killings of African Americans has been so prolific that it has perforated every aspect of American life, including sports.

Following the police shooting of 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake, the Milwaukee Bucks ignited a movement to protest police brutality by refusing to play their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic. Among subsequent threats of protest from teams across several major sports leagues, the NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS and WNBA all decided to postpone forthcoming games to stand in solidarity with those who demand greater police accountability.

It did not take long for an immense slew of disdain for the postponements and players protesting to arise across different media. Beneath any given article or post reporting on player protests is a coalition of sports fans irate that their beloved pastime is being impeded upon — the calls to “keep politics out of sports!” reverberate just as loudly as the calls for civil justice. 

To those people, I genuinely ask: How can you be so selfish?

Those who take issue with the athletes’ actions miss the quintessential point of what defines protests: they’re not supposed to be approved. Protests are meant to disrupt life’s usual modus operandi and force the American public and governing officials to focus on whatever issue the protestors are calling into scrutiny.

Additionally, the crowd that complains about politics being in sports naively spews this viewpoint as if the two have always existed in two separate realms, which is plainly untrue. What would American sports culture look if it “kept politics out of sports” and missed out on moments like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Tommy Smith and John Carlos raising a fist after winning a medal or the Miracle On Ice?

These blustering opponents of the player protests have shed light on a disheartening reality within the sports fan community. Their antagonism shows that a concerning number of people would rather temporarily possess the fleeting peace of mind that comes from watching a single sports game than see others work toward securing the vital peace of mind for millions of black Americans. 

Athletes are endowed with a far-reaching platform and wield great authority simply due to their vocation. For ordinary American citizens to command the attention of the nation they must unite in masses, march down streets and cry breathlessly for change. All an athlete has to do is wear a politically charged T-shirt, take a knee or refuse to play a single game. With racial injustice persisting in the United States, these athletes would be senseless to not utilize their voices — and those who scorn them for it are all the more foolish.


Nick is sophomore in LAS. 

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