On The Notion of “Sticking To Sports”

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There’s a new battle cry out there amongst the sports opinion ecosystem: DON’T just “stick to sports.” The age of athlete activism is upon us, even though athletes have been activists on their own time for years. Now, it’s just more in your face. Which can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how you like to take your activism.

Here’s an excerpt from a RealClearSports column by Cory Gunkel.

Rachel Nichols best summed up the hypocrisy on her ESPN NBA show, “The Jump,” on Wednesday.

“You can’t applaud athletes for putting their passion and resources into addressing the very real and physical damage caused when a person loses their house to a flood, but criticize athletes for putting those same passions and resources into addressing the very real and physical damage when, say, an unarmed person is shot and killed,” Nichols said. “It can’t be socially acceptable for an athlete to give out food to a hurricane shelter, but not acceptable for him or her trying to address a politician trying to defund school lunch programs.”

Gunkel says we need to slay the “Stick to Sports” rejoinder for good, and forever mix our sports and our politics and social issues. If this is going to be the case, may I humbly suggest a few things for those athletes who are itchin’ for activism?

Understand the difference between ACTION and mere VIRTUE SIGNALLING. 
The JJ Watt argument is a bad one, because in Watt’s case he was spearheading a humanitarian issue. He was actually DOING something about a problem. Furthermore, there was no “two sides” to the issue he was tackling. People were flooded and in need of supplies, water, and such. Nobody was saying “nah, these flooded Houstonians are babies. They’re fine!”

When it comes to athletes who tweet about “social justice” and specifically police brutality, one must realize that there is a tangle of complex issues in play on that one. For starters, the data on fatal police shootings is not kind to the narrative. But then again, people have different takes on how that data should be sliced and diced. I purposefully did not link any articles here, because you can do your own research, and I feel like nobody needs anymore “HERE, read this link you dummy and SUBMIT to my opinion” pieces on the internet.

Beyond that, I have not heard a single compelling ACTION item that Colin Kaepernick or others are suggesting be implemented to help solve the issue of racially biased policing/brutality. Is it more cops? Less cops? A new training program? Federalize law enforcement across all of the US? Do we want to forcibly match the racial percentage of police to the communities they serve? If a city is 80% black, do we want an 80% black force? What if it’s too hard to reach that number? Should we lower police academy standards to achieve a near perfect racial makeup?

What do you want as an activist, and what is your plan to achieve it? Without those two things, you merely have virtue signalling and attention seeking, not genuine activism. Kapernick has donated a million dollars to some 24 very worthy charities. That’s great! But what does he want me, or anyone else, to DO? Activism is only effective, if you get people to ACT.

Be Humble and Accept That the National Anthem Is Not the Right Place Or Time
Like many sports fans, I would have had no problem had Colin Kapernick spoken thoughtfully about police brutality and inequality in law enforcement after games, during sit down interviews with ESPN, at rallies, and via his social media platforms. But wearing pig socks to practice, and tweeting old photos of slave catcher badges is not thoughtful. And choosing the anthem as his stage, is simply wrong. And I’ll never sway from that opinion. The national anthem to many, is a ritual, and a collective vigil in which we come together as a society, to give thanks and pause for 2 minutes for living in such a wonderful country. It’s not protest time. Or look-at-me-time. Not now. Never.

Sure, it’s a moment of high leverage and attention for the players who are doing it, but it’s not their stage. I find it rude, and disrespectful to our military and those who have sacrificed for America’s safety and future. Then again, that’s just MY opinion. Un-swayable. But as VALID as anybody else’s opinion. And yes, I am well aware of the fact many military members are JUST FINE with anthem protests. To me, this is as inappropriate as somebody showing up to a candlelight vigil for somebody who was murdered (not by cops) and holding a big sign advocating for less restrictions on concealed carry laws. You may think THAT would have saved this person’s life, but the issue is more complex than that, and many would disagree. The anthem is a vigil. Respect it.

Prepare For and Accept That There Will be Strong Pushback and Debate on Some of Your Pet Issues
The left’s idea of “I’m not going to just stick to sports” also comes with a tacit belief that anyone who disagrees with them, is wrong, evil, and needs to be shouted down, shamed and shunned. I recently saw an ESPN personality use her twitter account to rally people to oppose the president’s repeal of DACA. Okay. Fine. Are you ready to engage with others in the sports world who want to argue that this is the right and proper thing for the president to do? Better yet, are there any sports media people insane enough (in this witch burning climate no less!) to mount that horse? DACA is complicated. Immigration laws, amnesty, executive orders, states rights…. etc. etc. At least that’s how I see it. Complicated. Some will no doubt eviscerate me for even saying it’s complicated! They will say it’s NOT! It’s SIMPLE! And it’s EVIL and HEARTLESS… and…. (sucks in deep breath of contempt)… CRUEL!

My thoughts in immigration, DACA, the debt ceiling, North Korea, Russian election interference, campaign finance reform, the electoral college, police brutality, the tax code, and to a much lesser extent, the designated hitter, are complex and varied. None are my expertise. They spill over different parts of the traditional ideological spectrum, and some of them are more emotionally based than empirical.

I could tell you about them here. Or on Twitter. Or Facebook. Of while the national anthem is playing. But I don’t see much actual good coming from that. I also don’t see where mixing them into our daily sports pancake batter is a good idea either. But apparently, some do. If you really want to know what I think about some things, then let’s buy each other a beer and we’ll have a good talk. If we try to do it via the internet, I am pretty sure it won’t go well.

Now…. who’s ready for SOME FOOTBALL! (Duh.. duh… duh DUNNNNNNN!”

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Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Czabe, your an absolute genius, very well written and articulate (as expected) article. The reason I look forward to hearing you every morning in Milwaukee and then go home and listen to your 980 show on my phone is because you always bring new perspective (right or comically wrong) and unlike just about every other sports person, you dont feel that you always have to be the smartest person in the room. I find the most interesting people to be around are the ones that dont take themselves too seriously. Good luck to your Skins, looking forward to beating them in the playoffs again!

  2. How about updating your B&B podcast on your web sight. The last one was from July 17th, really? Love your show and your segment with my boys from Milwaukee. Keep up the great work!!!

  3. Print and leave on Bram Weinstein’s desk, PLEASE. He is too free with his feelings; sports talk radio is NOT about saving the world.

  4. 100% agree czabe! Keep posting so I just have to shake my head yes. Could you adress the question why U.S. courts still adress upholding NFL suspensions. Cannot the great NFL do this themselves. Love the show. JIM

  5. Steve-
    Sports are games. And I’ve watched for decades and attended many a college game and support my school financially and by attending. I think for most of us, sports are an escape from politics and the cause du jour. Which is why the Redskins name garbage made me so mad. And made me buy MORE Skins gear. And why Bob Costas is dead to me. By the way, it may be me, but this seems to have gone into overdrive once BHO was in office and he and his henchmen began with Chicago style politics. But I digress. If the players at the college I financially support begin the social justice virtue signalling, kneeling, etc, I will call the AD’s office and tell them I am done with my support and will stop donating and going. I participate as a fan for enjoyment and they will have taken that from me. I’ll keep up, but I will read a book, watch a movie, go to the gym, or any number of other things during Saturday and Sunday. Yes, I know Hollywood is very leftist, but I can buy a movie used on eBay or Amazon and that money won’t go to them.
    HTTR.
    I miss you and Andy’s show.
    I’d never listened to 106.7 or their podcasts until the great purge at 980, and now that is where I am.

  6. Well done. I was talking with some friends about how we are living through the rendition of the Salem Witch Trials, and anyone that doesn’t agree should be burned at the stake. What is happening at Cal Berkeley should startle everyone.

  7. Great point Czabe. I am sick of accepting virtue signalling as so called protests. What bothers me most is that these NFL players owe their millions to the flag and country they say is inherently racist! I applaud the Cleveland PD for refusing to stand with the Browns and applaud the Blackest of black men Jim Brown for the lecture he gave the players, not sure if the 4 letter carried Jim Brown but i don’t watch it much these days.

    Keep up the great show, but bring back Great Meh suck that was my favorite !! I use that rating system for everything and now my kids use it as well.

  8. When you mention Tony Bruno, it humors me that you might like some of the cavalier attitude he’s gotten lately. In 15 years, will we see a tank-topped Steve Czaban and friends on (whatever morphs outof) facebook live doing podcasts throwing verbal stones at public or sports figures? We’re waiting for some epic rants/ hot takes!! Just don’t get fired quite yet.

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