Is the Left taking over sports?

The title question of this piece is the subject which Matt Lewis was pondering this week at The Daily Caller. Exactly how deeply has social change in the liberal / progressive direction embedded itself in our daily lives and those aspects of our public awareness outside of politics and government? There are plenty of areas where it either may not be the case or might not be obvious, but I’ll confess that some recent events in the NFL have gotten me wondering along the same lines.

Are liberals taking over sports coverage, too? Increasingly, that’s the way it feels. And it’s not just because Keith Olbermann is back at ESPN.

In just the last year or so, sports has been dominated by stories about NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay, the Miami Dolphins “bullying” scandal, debates over whether or not “Redskins” is a racial slur (with some outlets refusing to even use the name), and worries over the NFL’s “concussion crisis.”

The increased politicization of sports was probably the first sign. More and more, it seems, the behind-the-scenes soap opera has overshadowed what’s happening between the lines.

And as was the case with Bob Costas’ gun control rant earlier this year — or ESPN commentator Kevin Blackstone’s recent reference to the national anthem as a “war anthem” — many sports commentators are coming down decidedly on the side of political correctness (the flouting of which forced Rush Limbaugh to resign from ESPN a decade ago), away from overt patriotism and pro-American symbolism, and toward using sports to advance progressive social engineering goals.

There’s certainly something to be said for the variously humorous and/or frustrating turns we’ve seen when sportscasters step outside of their professional wheelhouse and begin preaching about political and social issues. But everyone has an opinion, and they are free to spout them off from whatever platform they can achieve. Some of Matt’s other questions, though, deal with changes we are seeing in the NFL of late. It seems clear that players who engage in some of the hardest hits (and don’t we all love them on the replays every week?) over a long career are susceptible to brain trauma of various sorts. Nobody wants that.

But what is there to be done? I confess that this question leaves me conflicted. Nobody wants to see players end up in a vegetative state, and it seems logical that technology should be able to offer some sort of relief on that front. But how much do we want to (and I’ll apologize in advance for using the term) “sissify” the NFL? If we change the rules and the gear to the point where they are eventually playing flag football, would anyone still want to watch? Would you watch professional boxing if everyone wore headgear? I probably wouldn’t. But then, I don’t want to see all the ex-champs being pushed around in wheelchairs either.

This is a tough question. I don’t know if it should be, but it is. I open it up for your discussion this evening as we prepare for another weekend of football.

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David Strom 8:01 AM on March 27, 2023