The Politicization Of Sports By Athletes, Coaches and Executives Could Alienate Non-Liberal Fans

| MAR 8, 2017 | 4:07 PM

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Wikimedia Commons - The Obama White House

Presumably to “not normalize” Donald Trump, denunciations of the president and his policies have come fierce and frequent from several public figures. While some sources of criticism (like Hollywood) shouldn’t be surprising for any Republican president, others have been more unexpected.

Professional athletes, coaches, executives and commissioners have all voiced concern and disapproval about the president. Many took aim at his embattled efforts to restrict travel from seven countries identified by the previous administration as being terror-stricken.

While reasonable people can disagree about the rationale, rollout and specifics of actions such as the travel ban, the degree to which prominent sports figures have condemned the president has been disconcerting.

Take San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. While “Pop” is infamously curt and dismissive with sideline reporters and in pressers, he’s had no shortage of unflattering things to say about President Trump and the state of the U.S. since last November’s election.

The day after the president’s inauguration, Popovich told reporters,

I’d just feel better if someone was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It’s dangerous, and it doesn’t do us any good.

Popovich — a man who often barely fulfills one of the basic, if tedious, duties of his day job — continued opining with the sort of anecdote any Democratic strategist could have come up with.

I hope he does a great job. But there’s a difference between respecting the office and the person who occupies it. That respect has to be earned. It’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids, and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people.

The Spurs coach is part of an NBA-wide disdain for the president. LeBron James won’t stay in Trump hotels, Stephen Curry has called him an “ass,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has needled White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is leading the way with Hitler comparisons.

Though the NBA does seem to be in open revolt against Trump, it’s not the only league drawing lines in the sand. Six members of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have announced they’ll be boycotting the traditional White House visit, despite having been effectively branded as “Team Trump” due to their head coach and quarterback’s support of the president when he was a candidate.

The Trump administration has seen a spike in this type of activism, but the progression is something neither new nor exclusive to this Republican. The NBA recently moved its All Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans based on the Tar Heel state’s “bathroom bill,” while both the NBA and NFL have issued warnings to the state of Texas over a similar piece of legislation.

The veracity of Michael Jordan’s “Republicans buy sneakers, too” quote aside, the underlying sentiment is not in question. In a time when you already have actors castigating huge swaths of the country for their views, what could become of the once largely apolitical landscape of sports if prominent people from professional leagues continue to be unwelcoming (even hostile) to conservatives?

For those who faithfully follow politics and sports, the latter is largely seen as an escape, rather than a collegiate safe space with strictly enforced codes of conduct. If that trend continues, however, it could be game over for millions of displaced conservative fans.

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