THE IMAGE OF PRO SPORTS
IS TARNISHED THESE DAYS
Not that I blame anybody. I brought nothing to the squads I’d finally wind up on. I was uncoordinated, with little talent for throwing, hitting or kicking a ball accurately. If choosing the players had been my job, I wouldn’t want me either.
Consequently, I grew up paying scant attention to sports. To this day, while I admire the remarkable feats which athletes are able to train their bodies to accomplish, I have pretty much no interest in team competition, as such. I’m not glued to my flat-screen TV for Superbowl Sunday or March Madness or the World Series.
Of course, no one can be unaware of professional sports in our culture. Especially so, with players, teams and leagues thrust into the center of our most fevered national controversies.
Today pro athletes — frequently described as “pampered millionaires” — cloak themselves in self-righteousness, preening as avatars of justice, champions of the poor and oppressed.
It may be that some of these players struggled up from difficult and deprived backgrounds (my ignorance of athletes’ personal stories reflects my detachment from sports generally). If this is the case, no doubt such players could share tales of poverty and ill treatment in “the hood.” Their life options would have been few, and sports the only way out.
Additionally, some may have felt the sting of prejudice and race-based injustice in their own lives or in the lives of people close to them. Racial animus is a reality, and I don’t wish to minimize the indignities anyone has experienced.
Under such circumstances, a desire of athletes to lend their prominence to appeals for social improvement is understandable. Laudable even.
Still, one wonders about their willingness to participate in public demonstrations that have proven deeply divisive and harmful to the very sports on which their personal success has depended.
There’s nothing new about sports venue protests. I can recall athletes at the 1968 Olympics raising their gloved fists in the “Black Power” salute as they accepted their medals. That protest occurred while “The Star Spangled Banner” played — in much the same way, a half century later, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick would “take a knee.”
At least those two Olympians, runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were honest. They wanted the world to know they were calling their country out for racial injustice and hypocrisy. Kaepernick, on the other hand, tried to hedge his protest. He insisted, rather disingenuously, that he was objecting only to police brutality and ill treatment of Blacks.
But such overt denigration of the American Flag and the National Anthem — the two most vivid and universally recognized symbols of the nation’s ideals — could hardly be viewed with such a narrow focus. Little wonder people were angered.
Kaepernick’s display set off a stream of demonstrations, which team owners and National Football League leaders at first tried to squelch. But after pressure from athletes and “woke” TV sponsors, the league now actively accommodates protests, complete with elaborate shows of support for Black Lives Matter.
The effect has been visible to all. Viewership of the season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the L.A. Rams, shown on NBC, was down sharply from last year. As reported by Western Journal…
“The game earned an initial 4.7 among the key advertiser demographic of ages 18-49 and attracted a total of 14.81 million viewers based on early Nielsen data ….
“That is an abysmal showing.
“Those early numbers represent a 28 percent decrease in the key demo and a 23 percent drop in total viewership when compared with 2019’s [Sunday night football] season opener in which the New England Patriots walloped the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-3 ….”
Such figures lend substance to a saying that’s become popular…
“Go woke, go broke.”
We’ll see how long it takes for the NFL to adjust its policies once more. They aren’t going to like paying out on those multi-million-dollar player contracts with reduced TV income and attendance revenue.
The real problem with these sports protests — as with most demonstrations that have broken out around the country — is that they’re riding on raw emotion. With some exceptions, the alleged police misdeeds that spark them tend to turn out looking much less clear-cut, after the first flashes of outrage pass and circumstances are examined more carefully.
And when you review the numbers overall, the claim of “systemic” racial injustice in police conduct becomes rather weak.
In a recent syndicated essay, Black conservative talk show host Larry Elder pointed to a persistent irony …
“Sports is a game of numbers, statistics, and records. It’s one of the many things we like about it. Where are the numbers, stats, and records that show the police engage in ‘systemic’ brutality against blacks? ….
Elder laid out some interesting facts…
“Any analysis of whether cops are killing blacks because they are black would begin with noting the approximately 50 million police-civilian interactions that occur every year. Out of these 50 million interactions, about 11 million people are arrested. In recent years, about 60,000 cops have been assaulted annually.
“All of this resulted in about 1,000 people being killed by the police on average in recent years, with almost all suspects resisting with a weapon or resisting violently. Of the 1,000 killed annually, approximately 250 were black and 500 white.
“The percentage of police shootings that involve a white cop and an unarmed black suspect is less than 4 percent of the total. The percentage of white cops killing unarmed black men who did not reasonably pose a threat is even smaller.”
In contrast, Elder quoted this observation by Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute…
“A police officer is 18 1/2 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.”
Now, of course, statistics are merely numerical expressions of real life. Every death is some family’s tragedy. And there’s a long history of friction between police and the African American community.
As Kevin Jackson, of the Black conservative website, Blacksphere, commented wryly back in 2013…
“it makes sense then that there are no black cops in America, right? All the cops in America must be white — white racists, in fact. Because black cops would not arrest black people — at least not real black cops ….
“If for some reason America allowed black cops, and I know there aren’t any, there would certainly be no blacks in charge of law enforcement. Have you ever heard of a black police chief, police commissioner, or sheriff?”
American sports fans share a deep cynicism over what Matt Purple, senior editor for The American Conservative, has called “bumper sticker totalitarianism.”…
“…wokeness as an ideology increasingly makes claims on every aspect of our lives,” Purple wrote recently, observing…
“…you can understand why the fans might be a tad suspicious [of NFL-promoted protests], why some of them might even boo a display of racial unity by the players, as they did before the season opener in Kansas City. The league’s opportunism reeks. Its hypocrisy is offensive to the senses. No wonder, then, that ratings for the kickoff game were at their lowest in more than a decade ….”
In another irony, even Colin Kaepernick, himself, isn’t impressed. A recent tweet dismissed the NFL’s actions as “propaganda.”
Polling by the Gallup Organization reveals a negative image for pro sports among U.S. adults…
“30 percent see the sports industry positively, compared to 40 percent reporting a negative image. This year’s survey illustrates a 30 percent decline from American views on the sports industry a year ago, when the corporate sports enjoyed a net positive 20 percent rating, with 45 percent of Americans reporting a favorable opinion compared to 25 percent who said otherwise.”
Perhaps Hall of Famer Mike Ditka captured fan attitudes most eloquently when he offered his reflection on players involved in the protests…
“You don’t like the game, get out of it. It’s not for protesting one way or the other. What color you are, what you think, this or that. You play football. That’s it. You’re privileged. You got a gift from God that you can play the game because you got a body you can do it with ….”
He summed up his counsel with this pointed advice…
“…the game’s only played in this country. And if you can’t respect this country, get the hell out of it.”
Speaking for myself, I used to feel kind of isolated because of my lack of interest in sports. I’m not quite so lonely these days.
The meme at the top, currently circulating on Facebook, captures the attitude of many football fans right now. While the one below minces no words as it blames the NFL for the shooting of this Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, identified only as “a 31-year-old mother.” She was one of two officers ambushed by an unknown assailant, and currently recovering from serious wounds. And oh yes, BLM protestors blocked the hospital entrance, chanting about her and her wounded colleague, “We hope you die!”
Larry Elder is one of several figures noted in a Washington Examiner article about how Black conservatives are rising to counter the narrative of “systemic” racism…
“Because the media is invested in this ‘systemic racism’ narrative, they can’t tell the truth,” said Mr. Elder, a familiar face on Fox News. “Democrats can’t tell the truth because they want Blacks to remain angry. So it’s up to Black conservatives to get out the facts. How ironic.”
The NFL has been jokingly referred to as the “National Felons League,” because of the numerous players who’ve had serious scrapes with the law. This situation isn’t exclusive to football. In fact, it’s endemic across the range of professional sports. Back in May, a website called Ranker profiled 80 Athletes who are felons. Think carefully about the people who are posing as champions of social justice…