The upcoming visit to the White House by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (pardon me while I gag just saying that) has taken on a far more twisted connotation in the media than the normal bread and circus atmosphere such public relations events normally generate. As has already been widely reported, a significant number of the players are refusing to attend the meeting and accept the traditional honor because of their stated opposition to either the policies of President Donald Trump or simply their revulsion at the fact that the man exists at all. This provided an endless source of fascination for reporters and yet another opportunity to paint a media picture of a country in distress over the results of fair and open elections. This characterization can be found in the curious title chosen at The Hill which reads, “President Trump roils the sports world.”
The divisive political climate roiling the entertainment industry is extending into the sports world.
Six members and counting on the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will skip a trip to the White House.
NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors insulted Trump in a recent interview with the Mercury News, saying the president is an asset “if you remove the ‘et.’ ”
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James announced his opposition to Trump’s executive order suspending travel to the United States by refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority nations.
The details of the objections voiced by the players are not really the story here. We see some of them saying that Trump doesn’t represent the America they live in and understand… the usual laundry list. Blah, blah blah. And it’s not just the New England Patriots nor only the sport of football for that matter. Former NBA stars are also quoted in the article along with some college players and coaches who are getting in on the act and grabbing a few headlines.
But is this really a case of the new president, “roiling the sports world?” Not hardly. Each of these instances represent very specific cases of players and teams making an active decision to stick their feet and megaphone enhanced mouths into the world of politics rather than staying in their own lane. Whether the Patriots attend the meeting at the White House or not is completely up to them. As their coach is quoted as saying in the article, players on various teams have opted to skip these dog and pony shows in the past when presidents of both parties were in office and nobody seemed to make that much of a fuss over it. But now some of these coaches and athletes are rushing far too eagerly to the microphones and reporters are lapping it up like fine cream.
While each and every one of them are entitled to their opinion on the political issues of the day, the rest of the country gets to weigh in on the subjects as well. What many of them seem to fail to grasp is that free speech goes both ways and everyone is responsible for the results of their own decisions. Here’s the other thing which some of these outspoken players don’t seem to comprehend. I would venture to say that for the vast majority of Americans, politics (particularly of the divisive sort we have today) is not something that we enjoy. It’s something that we do out of a sense of civic responsibility but if there were a way to avoid these food fights most of us probably would.
Sports on the other hand is something that we’re supposed to have fun with. We don’t watch these games as our 9-to-5 jobs, but rather as something to relieve stress and bring a little joy back into our lives in our off time. But watching sports is not mandatory. If it ceases to be enjoyable, some number of us will simply tune out. And who do you suppose that hurts the most in the end? Yes, the country would be a more bland and less fun place without football, basketball, hockey and all the rest, but I don’t imagine most of us want to intentionally torture ourselves further. And the value of these players’ contracts shrinks as viewership (and franchise profitability) decreases.
In the end, the title of the linked article is actually pretty much the opposite of what’s really happening. President Trump hasn’t infected sports. The sporting world has chosen to contract this disease on their own dime and they may well wind up suffering the detrimental effects.