How poisonous politics and social media managed to even ruin sports

Now we’ve learned that not only were most of the Philadelphia Eagles not planning to go to the White House, but neither the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors were intending to go even before their championship series was over. (By the way, congrats, Warriors.) So we seem to have collectively drawn a line in the stand. If anyone from a championship sports team goes to visit the President for a congratulatory visit, critics of the Oval Office occupant will swarm in and declare them to be evil incarnate and decry how they are ruining the sport. What was once just a pleasant, if pointless, afternoon of fun for the team and the White House staff has morphed into a toxic brew.

Some have found their own reasons to decry the entire ritual. Tom Joyce weighs in on this at the Washington Examiner with an essay titled, “There’s no good reason for championship teams to visit the White House, no matter who the president is.”

The whole practice seems like it’s out of 12th-century England. The sitting president is a democratically elected official, not the king of the country. After teams win a sports championship, why is it that they “earn” an invite to meet the president? The president isn’t supposed to be a God-like figure; whoever is in the office is just the head of one of three branches of government. They are not a person worth worshiping or seeking approval from, even for those who agree with their policies. If they were, then people like Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Trump, who have engaged in extramarital affairs, probably wouldn’t be the men for the job…

The situation is also a lose-lose for the players. It puts them in an awkward spot of having to choose whether or not they want to go and answering questions about it, politicizing them when there is no reason to do so. Skip the White House visit and one side will complain. However, if one visits the White House and looks happy to be there the criticism and disappointment from left-wing fans will come. This happened to Houston Astros outfielder Josh Reddick earlier this year, who didn’t even tweet anything overtly political.

Joyce definitely has a point in terms of how the players can wind up paying a price despite not even being involved in the politics and some of these tweets show how Josh Reddick is a prime example.

But that’s really the entire point here. This wasn’t Reddick’s fault. It wasn’t Trump’s fault for letting him visit. It’s a poison which didn’t come from the White House or the professional sports leagues. It came from the internet and a handful of players who decided to start an infection which turned into an epidemic.

This is one of the sadder statements about 21st century America in recent memory. This is why we can’t have nice things. And it all started with Colin Kaepernick and the decision that somehow professional sports would benefit from an injection of politics. Does that really sound like a smart idea when you look at the situation from outside of the snowglobe? Injecting politics into anything anymore is probably a worse plan than shooting up some raw cobra venom.

Why did we have to drag sports into it? For me, it’s football, which I love dearly. I know many of you may prefer baseball, basketball, hockey or even soccer. (Though I still wonder about those of you in that last group. Soccer? Really?) But seriously… why couldn’t we have just this one thing? Just this one, pure, joyous thing where we could all pretend to shake our fists at each other in defense of our team while still quietly being happy for our friends who rooted for their hometown? Why did we have to let Political Twitter and Political Facebook and all the rest become the arbiter of whether or not this was a worthwhile entertainment endeavor?

Now the NFL’s ratings are tanking and they’ve wound up having to pass a new rule that’s only going to poke yet another stick in the hornets’ nest. We’re actually having a serious debate over whether or not the teams can be forced to take somebody they don’t think is a good fit because they might otherwise be deemed insensitive. And the league is debating all of this instead of that stupid decision to move the kickoff line forward to the point where almost nobody runs the ball back anymore.

It’s not even ten weeks until the preseason kicks off. I’ll be there once again watching my New York Jets and rooting for them as best I can. If some sort of miracle occurred and they won the Super Bowl it would have been nice to see them all go to the White House. But it’s not going to happen. Something has changed significantly for the worse. The game simply isn’t the same. It’s probably never going to be the same again. And it’s sad.

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