When the second biggest asshole in this country, Covid-19, hit this country hard, I felt the biggest hit from the cancellation of March Madness. I, along with millions of other Americans, was devastated to learn that the greatest sporting event of the year would simply not happen. Our country lives and breathes sports. Even if you are not a sports fanatic, I’m sure you know someone who has their day made (or ruined) by the outcome of a game. Aside from all of us poor saps who lost out on watching our favorite teams compete for glory, do you know who else was hit hard by its demise? The people who make money from it.
The NCAA lost almost a BILLION dollars by shutting down the tournament. Most of that money would have been made from lucrative television deals and advertising. And if companies are paying the NCAA that kind of money, then the amount lost by corporations must be significantly bigger.
At this same time, professional sports were also cancelling/postponing seasons in order to ensure a safe and profitable return. For months, the void left by sports was significant. So when NBA, MLB, and NHL all came back with only minor setbacks, everything felt right again.
And now, we’re facing another shutdown in the world of sports. It’s not due to financial disagreements between owners and players, and it’s not due to coronavirus. It’s because this country is being torn apart from within, and the players are using their platform to evoke change.
In 2018, Laura Ingraham went live on national television and said that NBA players had no business talking politics, and that they should just “shut up and dribble.”
Unfortunately, we’re seeing this sentiment come back again, with news that players in the NBA are considering boycotting the rest of the playoffs, due to the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, as well as the general inequity that persists in this country for people of color.
People are once again telling the players to stick to sports, and stay out of politics. Why should they? They have earned themselves a platform, and have every right to use it how they see fit. In fact, I’d say that athletes are probably more qualified to talk about the feelings of the general public than the Laura Ingrahams of the world.
Not only do they have every right to make this protest, but it also has the potential to actually create change. While people are complaining that athletes make millions of dollars to play a game, they’re forgetting that owners make billions of dollars for someone else to play a game. And while the players will most certainly be forfeiting a small fortune by refusing to play, the people who make money off of these games will lose MUCH more. And these owners and corporations are the ones who have real political sway. Politics is guided by money, and when those “donations” stop rolling in, change is going to happen to ensure the money train gets back up and running.
And on a smaller scale, we’re not going to have sports to escape from the reality this country is facing. We’re going to have to have conversations, and actually think about things. It certainly doesn’t mean people will stop being awful to one another, but conversation is a step in the right direction.
Aside from the NBA, other athletes (and some management personnel) are using their power to walk the walk.
The Mets and Marlins took the field, had a 42-second moment of silence, and then walked off.
The only thing left on the field: a Black Lives Matter shirt.pic.twitter.com/JyckWkGQai
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 27, 2020
Matthew Stafford drove home a big point: football is a melting pot of cultures. He said it's painful but important to hear teammates.
"I wish America, I wish everybody could in these calls or be in these meetings," he said. "I feel so lucky to have grown up in this sport." pic.twitter.com/xPfnUYJ1Rh
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 25, 2020
Sports are incredible. They have the power to unite diverse groups of people as fans, they can entertain and inspire, and they can impact the way we live. I miss them when they’re gone, but sometimes it’s important to realize that life is bigger than sports.