Stop Politicizing Sports!

Stop Politicizing Sports!

© David Burton 2021

Politicizing Sports

     “Many sports fans take their sports very seriously. But to watch sports is to watch people play a game. It is a distraction from the real world. It is meant to be entertaining. It is meant to be a fun break. That’s why it’s so difficult to mix cultural and political messages with sports. We’re watching sports to get away from our troubled world for a bit.
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     “It’s another thing when spectators are forced to listen or watch cultural or political messages before or during a game. That feels like an unwanted intrusion, as if the sports world is saying, ‘You cannot enjoy the game until you hear our message.’
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     “. . . trying to mix politics with sports will result in a loss of fans, a trend that has been growing over the last few years.
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     “{This is} . . . not just . . . about pre-game protests. {It’s} about the NBA blanketing every game with non-stop BLM-related messaging. {It’s} about the commentators during the games giving their woke lectures. {It’s} about the media making the messaging almost as important as the event itself.
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     “{Playing and/or singing the National Anthem before a sporting event is a} a celebration of patriotism and unity and courage, also standing as a tribute to our soldiers fighting for freedom overseas. And that’s why protests staged during the anthem, however well-intended they may be, are perceived by many Americans as a slap in the face to our country, in particular to those who fought and died for our country.
     “Most Americans sitting down to watch NFL games during a holiday like Thanksgiving will not appreciate what they perceive to be anti-American sentiments. They want to enjoy their sports and celebrate their country, not be lectured about how bad America is.
     “Even for Americans who are concerned with police brutality and/or racial injustice, many do not appreciate the BLM movement. Yet it is BLM that is shouting from the rafters of our COVID-emptied arenas, especially in the NBA. Add to this the NBA’s rank hypocrisy in its cozy dealings with China, whose atrocities are infinitely greater than those of our country’s bad cops, and it’s understandable why many fans are dropping out.
     “. . . many (if not most) Americans will not take kindly to sports being intertwined with politics. Can’t we just have a little fun?” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 1)

     In a blatant and unfortunate politicization of professional sports, it was announced that “MLB will move the 2021 All-Star Game and 2021 draft out of Atlanta in response to a new voting law in Georgia.
     " ‘Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,’ MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. ‘In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.’
     “Critics of the law, which was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, have said it restricts access to the ballot box, particularly for Black voters and other voters of color.
     “Manfred said that they spoke with clubs, former and current players, The Players Association and The Players Alliance, among others, to hear their views on the matter. He decided the move would be ‘the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.’ “ (Ref. 2)

     Major League Baseball thus allowed politics to interfere with America’s national pastime and it acted on behalf on one political party – the Democratic Party – in preference to the other major political party – the Republican Party. SHAME ON MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL!

     Perhaps the worst example of an attempt at politicizing sports occurred in 1936. In that year, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime attempted to make the 1936 Olympics an advertisement for the Nazis, racist Germany and for supposed Aryan supremacy.

     Adolf Hitler, who was not a sports fan, had been lukewarm toward the whole idea of hosting the 1936 Olympics. It had taken some effort by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to convince him that the Olympic festivities could be exploited to advance the Nazi cause both inside and outside of Germany.
     The Games had been awarded to Germany by the International Olympic Committee back in May 1931, before Hitler came to power. Under Goebbels' direction, the Nazis intended to use the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin as a showcase for the "new Germany."
     Huge controversy erupted over the exclusion of Jewish athletes from Germany's Olympic team. The president of Germany's Olympic Committee was himself ousted from this prestigious position after it was revealed his paternal grandmother was Jewish. He was replaced by a high-ranking SA man.
     The banning of non-Aryans from Germany's Olympic team was condemned internationally as a violation of the Olympic code of equality and fair play. The Olympics were intended to be an exercise in goodwill among all nations emphasizing racial equality in the area of sports competition. The Nazis, however, had no interest in promoting racial equality and hoped instead to use the Olympics to show off Aryan athletes.
     The head of the U.S. Olympics Committee justified American participation by stating that the Olympics were meant for "athletes not politicians." He succeeded in swaying a number of American athletes to his point of view and this helped to avoid a boycott of the Olympics or its being moved to another venue.[3]

     There was a lesson to be learned from the 1936 Olympics and in the years ever since. That lesson, which we seem to have forgotten in this twenty-first century is that sports should be free of all politics – both national and international. Clearly, it no longer is.

     Another case of the politicization of sports occurred at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. Standing on the podium, American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to make the Black Power salute.
     As the American national anthem played during the victory ceremony, Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos bowed their heads and raised their black-gloved fists. The pair both wore black socks and no shoes, while Mr. Carlos wore a necklace of black beads.
     The International Olympic Committee condemned Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos’ protest, deeming it a political statement and “a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit”. The US athletes were promptly suspended from their country’s Olympic team and sent home.
     Time magazine called the protest a “public display of petulance that sparked one of the most unpleasant controversies in Olympic history”, adding: “’Faster, Higher, Stronger’ is the motto of the Olympic Games. ‘Angrier, nastier, uglier’ better describes the scene in Mexico City last week.”[4]

     Burgess Owens, a former NFL safety who played for the New York Jets, said he was prepared to stop watching the NFL games because of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s lobbying for the return of Colin Kaepernick and the endorsement of player protests during the national anthem.
     “If Goodell allows Kaepernick to come back, if they allow players to kneel during the national anthem, I’m willing to not watch the game,” Owens, who is Black and Republican, told Sports Illustrated. Owens’ position is one that all real sports fans should be taking – No more attending or watching sporting events until the politicization of sports is ended!
     Owens, who spent 10 years between the Jets and Oakland Raiders, is one of the few prominent former Black players who sided with President Donald Trump on the issue of NFL players protesting social issues during the national anthem.
     Kaepernick has repeatedly stated that he was not protesting the national anthem itself but merely using this moment before a game as a platform for these issues. What Kaepernick and so many others don’t understand is that sports should not be a venue for politics or social protests – sports was and should remain simply an activity to be played, watched and enjoyed!
     The NFL and too many other sports organizations have lost their way. While the NFL has been trying to increase their base and their revenue by going overseas to places like China, Mexico and England, they apparently don’t care enough about their fans who love this country or the value of nonpoliticized sports.
     “We have too many Americans now accepting the notion that the flag should be a place where people should be ashamed of or take a knee, that’s what it comes down to,” Owens said. “I am disappointed that so many people are acquiescing today. They don’t understand the American way, they don’t understand the price paid. They need to understand that we can’t be bullied and [also] that we’re not an evil country. There is no other country in the world with the mixing of races and tolerance. We have to change the current narrative.”[5]

     Sports used to be a pastime that transcended political differences and brought people together, but with rising political temperatures, that sentiment no longer seems to exist. From the NBA relocating its All-Star Game in North Carolina due to the state’s transgender bathroom legislation, to the polarizing topic of kneeling for the national anthem, there is no doubt that politics is now the center of everything.

     A prime example of this was the Nike ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. Nike’s 30th anniversary of its #JustDoIt campaign launched with a close-up, black and white photo of Kaepernick with the slogan; “Believe in Something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
     Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick may have been simply a marketing tactic, but the move demonstrates how politics is now a part of everything. After Nike’s decision, some called for a boycott of the company and for true sports enthusiasts to burn their Nike gear.
     Kaepernick also made his politics clear by wearing socks depicting cops as pigs, a t-shirt in support of Cuban genocidal Communist Che Guevara and a Malcolm X hat. Conservative media personalities criticized Kaepernick for his ignorance of history.
     Conservative political commentators criticized the national anthem protests. “Kneeling during the national anthem…[is] actually undercutting its own message,” said one Fox News commentator, “If you want to protest perceived police brutality, there are police stations right down the way where you can protest. Sitting or kneeling during the national anthem doesn’t seem like the smartest way to do that.” Kaepernick tried to start a movement back in 2016 that most players and Americans did not like. Unfortunately, that movement has not been terminated.
     And it’s not just at football games where politics has become the sun that everyone orbits around - ESPN decided to make politics their central focus. In 2017, ESPN laid off over 100 on-air employees, which included almost the whole NHL reporting team, also getting rid of Baseball Tonight. Why? Because those have little to do with politics and ESPN spends most of its time reporting a left-leaning political agenda.
     ESPN’s public editor, stated, “The desire to draw a boundary between sports, culture and politics is a fool’s errand…. The volume of non-sports content within ESPN’s empire has increased significantly in recent years.” Part of this is designed to pander to a certain audience, which often neglects a large portion of those who just want to hear about sports on the sports channel, and politics on the news channel. ESPN has blurred this dividing line. Is this for the better?
     Ratings for the NFL and ESPN are down overall, and while it cannot be singly contributed to the politicization, it is definitely at least one reason for the dip. Hopefully, the trend will continue until we get back to the days of sports being played for the sake of the sport and not to make political statements or to promulgate propaganda.
     If neither the Old Glory nor the Star Spangled Banner nor sports unites us, then what does? Sports and the national anthem have become left-right issues, polarizing this nation. Those who kneel for the national anthem will be praised by the left, while those on the right will say those who kneel are being unpatriotic and disrespectful. Instead, what is needed at sporting events is something that is politics free and a symbol of unity. Politicizing sports increases the divide and the odds of the country’s differences becoming irreconcilable.[6]

     Back in 2020, there was hope that the return of the long-awaited Major League baseball season would lift our spirits and bring us together. They had to be disappointed to learn that we were more divided than ever over the National Anthem kneeling debate. And although then-President Trump chose to not join the #BoycottMLB movement on Twitter, the president did join a growing number of disheartened baseball fans who were unhappy that their favorite teams were taking the knee. Even before the start of the season, President Trump tweeted that he was “looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!”
     A July 2020 Rasmussen poll of 1,000 Americans indicated that “Americans are sending more negative signals than positive ones over the decision by many professional sports organizations to promote the controversial Black Lives Matter movement.”
     The poll revealed that more than 30 percent of American adults are less likely to watch sporting events that promote Black Lives Matter. It is even worse for those “frequent watchers” who follow professional sports on television, in person, on the radio, or online once a week or less. Roughly 35 percent say they are less likely to watch events that promote the BLM protests. Clearly, there are still some Americans who have retained their good old-fashioned common sense and judgement.
     Although 43 percent of all respondents say such promotion will have no impact on their viewing habits, a deeper analysis of the demographic data reveals that sponsors of these sporting events will be especially unhappy to learn that when the coveted target demographic group - young male beer drinkers - are also the ones more willing to say that they are less likely to watch. Forty-three percent of men under 40 years old indicated that they are less likely to watch sporting events that promote the Black Lives Matter movement
     The differences between the left and the right here in America show up when we note that the poll shows that 43 percent of all Republicans are less likely to watch sporting events that promote BLM, compared with only 19 percent of all Democrats indicating that they will be less likely to watch.
     All of this could have been easily predicted based on historical data collected since the earliest days of the Colin Kaepernick kneeling protests. Even the NFL, after making feeble attempts to blame the ratings dips on the “attention around our presidential election,” had to admit that the Kaepernick kneeling protests were negatively affecting viewership and attempted to address the problem. But, all of that has been forgotten in the current racial climate.
     Continuing its commitment to exacerbating the controversy, the New York Times published an article with the headline: “The Anthem Debate Is Back. But Now It’s Standing That’s Polarizing.” Claiming that “today, athletes may have to explain why they chose to stand, not kneel, during the Star-Spangled Banner, the Times writer, suggested that “the difference in 2020 as sports begin to emerge from their pandemic suspensions, is that nearly every professional athlete will be forced to choose a posture.” The Times built its argument on an interview with a history professor and director of African American Studies at the University of Mississippi, who said, “You cannot sit around now in this post-George Floyd period we’re in and say ‘We’re going to continue to take this safe position.… Either you have an issue with racism or you do not.”
     Some sports fans disagree. In fact, it is likely that most sports fans just want to enjoy sports again and would prefer to end the polarizing debates on the fields of play.
     In the meantime, professional athletes like 25-year-old Rachel Hill, a player with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Chicago Red Stars, who choose to remain standing and honoring the flag, are shamed. When attacked on social media, Hill responded that she chose to stand “because of what the flag inherently means for my military family members and to me, but I 100% support my peers.… I support the black lives matter movement wholeheartedly. I also support and will do my part in fighting against the current inequality. As a white athlete, it is way past due for me to be diligently anti-racist.”
     Rachel Hill’s explanation wasn’t good enough for the Times writer, who concluded his article with the criticism that “Hill tried to have it both ways.… There is little room for such posturing.”
     But, Rachel Hill did get it right! We all need to do our part in fighting against racial inequality and discrimination. And we need to do this continuously in our daily life and not by politicizing sports. Sports should not and must not be subjected to politicization. It must be kept free of special interest propaganda and race baiting.[7]

     Still more evidence of fan discontent with political messaging in sports came in the 2020 NBA playoffs. The NBA spent a good portion of its COVID-delayed season trying to figure out how to spread messages to combat social injustice, when its game resumed. The league allowed players to wear social justice sayings on their jerseys, and each court had "Black Lives Matter" painted on it.
     Now that the 2020 playoffs are over, and playoff ratings ended up at a 40-year low, the NBA commissioner said that social justice messages wouldn't be prominently displayed when the next season.
     The NBA Commissioner said the league would depend upon its teams and players to deliver those ongoing messages largely outside of the playing arena. Better late than never!
     In 2020, nationwide protests sparked social justice movements within professional sports leagues, from the NBA to NASCAR. The NBA allowed its players to wear social justice messages at the top portion of their jersey backs, where the player's name would typically be seen. In addition, at the Disney World "Bubble" where games were being played in Orlando, Florida, there were "Black Lives Matter" messages painted onto each court.
     At the same time, the NBA ratings plummeted during the league's restart and subsequent playoffs. The NBA commissioner didn’t say it was the reason for pulling the social justice messages directly from players’ uniforms and the playing courts, but draw you own conclusions.
     The NBA's move to remove social justice statements from basketball courts and player jerseys came at a time when contracts needed to be renewed between the league and its partners. So money does talk![8]

     There was a time when athletics, professional and amateur, were devoid of politics. The time has come for real sports fans to stand up and demand that once more, sports be cleansed of all politics. Real sports fans should stop attending sporting events until those who control sporting events pledge to purge the events of any and all political taints. No more symbols, like the Black Power Salute, or kneeling during a national anthem. No more political messages at sports venues. No more symbolic acts that are political in nature or purvey a political message. Real sports fans need to stop watching televised sporting events that are politically tainted so that sponsors will stop paying their outrageous advertising fees for sporting events in which there are political messages presented – implicitly or expressly.

     Now in 2021, in a spectacular display of virtue signaling, Major League Baseball will move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to voting legislation recently passed in Georgia. The ability to get the facts straight about the new law apparently did not factor into the decision. While the Georgia economy may be big losers in this game, sports lovers everywhere will be the real losers as unwelcome politics once more intrudes into the sports arena.
     But MLB may get its comeuppance. Late last week, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah threw the organization a curve ball: MLB should lose its antitrust exemption, they said. “It’s time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations — especially those that punish their political opponents.” Hooray!
     MLB chose to politicize baseball by aligning its placement of the All-Star Game with the Democratic Party agenda. As this action has shown, Major Leaguer Baseball is no longer just a sport. It’s time to return MLB to it’s original objective of being a sport – the national sport of the United States of America![8]

     As evidence of the biased political objective of MLB’s action, it may be noted that Colorado, in some cases, has more stringent voting laws than the newly enacted Georgia voting laws.[9]

     The decision to move the game is "so hypocritical" given the similarities between Colorado and Georgia's voting laws.

     “Both states require voters to show an ID when voting in person, although Georgia requires a proof of identity to verify absentee votes. Voters in Georgia who don't have an ID can use a bank statement, utility bill, Social Security number or another government document with their name on it instead . . .
     “Colorado also still relies on signature-matching to verify absentee ballots, a practice Georgia abandoned. . .
     “Georgia's laws also provide more early-voting opportunities . . . Colorado permits two fewer days of early voting than Georgia's 17.” (Ref. 9)

     Some sports organizations have begun to get the message that sports and politics shouldn’t mix. The NBA spent a good amount of time after the 2020 playoffs trying to figure out how to spread messages to combat social injustice, when its game resumed for the 2020-2021 season. The league had allowed players to wear social justice sayings on their jerseys, and each basketball court had "Black Lives Matter" painted on it.
     But when the 2020 playoffs were about to wrap up, and playoff ratings were at a 40-year low, the NBA commissioner said that social justice messages wouldn’t be prominently displayed when the 2020-21 season began. The NBA apparently got the message![10]

     America’s sports lovers and baseball fans in particular should join in by boycotting this year All Star Game. Lovers of pure sports should refuse to attend the 2021 All Star Game at its new site in Denver, Colorado. True sports fans should refuse to watch the Telecast of the game on 13 July 2021. The time is long overdue when all forms of politics should be eliminated from sporting events. More than 80 years ago, there was an outcry against the Nazi’s attempts to spread their message of hate at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Maybe today in 2021 there will be another hue and cry against the attempts at politicizing sports.



  1. Why Politics and Sports Do Not Make for a Good Mix, Michael Brown, Townhall, 15 September 2020.
  2. MLB to Move 2021 All-Star Game Out of Atlanta Over Georgia Voting Law, Madeline Coleman,
    Sports Illustrated, 2 April 2021.
  3. The Triumph of Hitler: The Berlin Olympics, The History Place, 2001.
  4. Black Power salute 50 years on: Iconic Olympics protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos remembered,
    Tom Parfitt, Independent, 24 April 2019.
  5. Burgess Owens Won’t Stand for Colin Kaepernick's Kneeling, Kristian Dyer, Sports Illustrated, 21June 2020.
  6. The Politicization of Sports, Kimberly Rich, 14EAST, 5 October 2018.
  7. New Evidence: Key Fans Unhappy With Sports Leagues Kowtowing to Black Lives Matter, Anne Hendershott,
    The American Spectator, 1 August 2020.
  8. MLB should lose antitrust exemption after All-Star move, Boston Herald: Page 12, 6 April 2021.
  9. Colorado, Site of New MLB All-Star Game, Has More Restrictive Voting Laws Than Georgia, Newsweek,
    6 April 2021.
  10. As NBA Finals Ratings Tank, Commissioner Says League Will Withdraw 'Black Lives Matter' From Jerseys, Courts, Scott McDonald, Newsweek, 7 November 2020.

  29 April 2021 {Article 472; Suggestions?_58}    
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