Culture

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

ESPN and the NFL have a serious problem, and viewers are tuning out rather than put up with it.

Arnold Ahlert · Aug. 28, 2017

The American Left’s determination to make everything about politics is proceeding apace.

The latest insanity emanates from the world of sports — or what used to be the world of sports until progressives decided everything can serve as a bully pulpit for lectures or demonstrations from the nation’s social justice warriors in the broadcast booth or on the field.

Thus, interim NCAA President Derrick Johnson wants to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Johnson asserts Kaepernick’s protest “is well within the National Football League’s stated bylaws” and that his failure to be taken by any team “is no sheer coincidence.”

Johnson misses the point — twice.

First, free speech is not “consequence free” speech. Whether leftists like it or not, people can be held accountable for the things they say and do.

And who’s kidding whom? When it aligns with their ideological sensibilities, leftists do like holding people accountable. People like former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who was forced to resign six years after he contributed $1,000 to support the since-overturned 2008 same-sex marriage ban in California. Or former Harvard president Larry Summers, who lost his job for daring to suggest there might be minor differences in aptitude between men and women working in the STEM fields. Or Google engineer James Damore, who was driven from his job for decrying the company’s “politically correct monoculture.”

Second, no one is obligated to offer any quarterback a position on an NFL roster, much less one whose talent has declined to the point where he lost his starting position. That decline, plus his potentially fan-alienating assertion that he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” or one where cops are “getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” may not matter to the self-appointed doyens of politically correct racial politics, but for football teams, football — both as a sport and a business — is their primary focus.

Or as Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy puts it, Kaepernick’s “situation is not good enough to have him on the team with all the attention that comes along with it.”

Such obvious realities also elude NAACP New York State President Hazel Dukes. She declares the NFL is putting league interests ahead of social issues. (Imagine that!) “Right now,” she insists, “the action of the league seems to imply to young black men that this league, which is comprised of 70 percent African Americans, only values Black lives if they are wearing a football uniform.”

Dukes, like so many leftists, loves to embrace logical fallacies. If Kaepernick isn’t hired, or the same kind of private business (according to the Supreme Court) as Mozilla, Harvard or Google decides to hold any other player accountable for his actions, those responses are inherently racist. And as Dukes herself implies, embracing the “value” of black lives means embracing #BLM and the requisite anti-police, white “privilege” dogma.

If the NFL were to #Resist? “There will be no football in the state of Georgia if Colin Kaepernick is not on a training camp roster and given an opportunity to pursue his career,” declared Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta NAACP at a news conference. “This is not a simple request. This is a statement. This is a demand.”

Granted, the NFL deserves zero sympathy. It could have nipped this nonsense in the bud, but chose instead to embrace the intrusion of progressive politics into football. And while Goodell denied it had anything whatsoever to do with the league’s plummeting ratings last year, a J.D. Powers survey revealed anthem protests were the number one reason for the decline. And it’s likely to get worse, because the number of players involved in these demonstrations is increasing.

The higher the visibility, the greater the fan alienation.

Leftists are also determined to maintain the narrative of Kaepernick’s folk hero status to the point of absurdity. “Free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be featured in a Black Lives Matter collection at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, museum curators announced this weekend,” The Daily Signal reports.

What else does it report? “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the nation’s longest-serving black justice, remains absent from the museum.” Thus, an America-contemptuous, second-string quarterback is an historical icon while a conservative Supreme Court Justice is an Orwellian-like non-entity.

A museum dedicated to African-American History and Culture? A temple of progressive propaganda is more like it.

Speaking of progressive propaganda temples — and more PC-motivated insanity — ESPN yanked Asian-American announcer Robert Lee off the William and Mary at University of Virginia college football game “because of the coincidence of his name,” the network announced in a statement. “In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”

An issue for whom? The cadre of hypersensitive left-wing zealots engaged in the ISIS-like destruction of historical artifacts that “offend” them? People so IQ-challenged they would conflate an Asian-American college football announcer with a Confederate general who died in 1870?

ESPN President John Skipper was apparently feeling the self-inflicted heat, yet his attempt to clarify what occurred was even more ludicrous. Lee was not removed because network execs were worried about offending people. “Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether — in these divisive times — Robert’s assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling,” stated Skipper in an internal memo. Skipper further insisted Lee expressed “some personal trepidation about the [Charlottesville] assignment” and that the “good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda.”

Since Skipper took over in 2012, ESPN’s agenda has been hijacked to the point where it has been force-feeding its audience a steady diet of social justice issues so politically correct, it even apologized for running a live fantasy football draft likened to a slave auction by leftists trolls.

And like the NFL, it is paying the price: Since 2013, the sports network has lost 10 million subscribers.

Progressive writer Freddie deBoer illuminates the primary problem. “Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance,” he writes. “Everybody is to be judged.”

And therein lies progressivism’s Achilles Heel: all-encompassing and increasingly judgmental demands for “purity” that become impossible for even the most dedicated social justice warriors to meet.

Remarkably, neither the NFL nor ESPN seem to understand that most fans turn to sports to escape politics. Millions of people who tune in to watch football or sports reporting will tune out when confronted with virtue-signaling one-percenters demonstrating their “solidarity” with progressive America-bashers.

In short, Americans are getting disgusted with the unsportsmanlike conduct infesting the world of sports.

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