Literally the only thing I watch on TV is sports. If hockey, boxing, MMA or the occasional soccer game isn’t on the tube, I shut the thing off. This is for many reasons, but primarily it’s because—up until recently—the world of sports was my only mainstream media escape from the nonstop left versus right cultural holy war.
Ever since Trump was elected, America’s media-entertainment-industrial complex has turned into a 24-hour-a-day, nonstop political propaganda machine. Award shows have devolved into little more than a platform for entertainers to find new ways to say “fuck Republicans,” with the MTV Video Music Awards basically becoming a three hour paean to white guilt – if not an outright Maoist struggle session broadcast into 200 million homes. Even commercials have become smug, self-righteous tributes to the leftist cause, with Proctor and Gamble somehow trying to sell soap by trudging up segregation era racial violence.
With movies, television, the news, cartoons, video games, and comic books all becoming unabashed social justice warrior agitprop, sports were the only form of mass entertainment that was unaffected by the anti-right cultural jihad. Sports—for all its faults and foibles—remained a non-political realm, the only sector of popular culture that could rightly be called a meritocracy. Dogged tirades against racism, homophobia, misogyny, or police violence had no place in the figurative and literal sports arena. The NFL, NBA, and MLB remained cultural constants that rest outside the taint of contemporary social issues.
But that all changed when Colin Kaepernick decided to protest “systemic racism” and “police brutality” in 2016. For whatever reason, Colin—whose black father abandoned his white mother while he was still in utero, and who owes his entire livelihood to being adopted by a well-to-do white middle class couple instead of being left to stagnate in single-motherhood poverty—figured kneeling during the national anthem would be the best way to symbolically take a stand against cops shooting black people, inner city schools being so shitty, and non-black people saying the word “nigger,”, I suppose.
Of course, Colin never explained how refusing to participate in a League-wide ceremony that is explicitly prefaced as a “tribute to our men in women in uniform” had anything to do with police brutality, failing African-American students, or white people in Arkansas using the term “jungle bunny,” but somehow, it caught on. Rather than show respect for the 1.8 million people who have died defending the country since 1776—among them, the 300,000 Union troops who literally gave their lives to end slavery, not to mention the nearly 8,000 black soldiers who died in Vietnam—a litany of (almost exclusively black) NFL and NBA players began taking a knee or sitting on the sidelines during the performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
This is their oh-so-special way of saying “fuck the system,” and as the media has kindly reminded us time and time again, any and all displays of black dissatisfaction are both valid and meritorious by proxy of “we wuz slaves.”
From interceptions to intersectionality
Over the last year or so, it has been impossible to detach the world of sports from the world of social justice warrior-dom. Even ESPN turned into a de facto branch of Antifa, with on-air hosts publicly chiding the Trump Administration for supporting alleged “white supremacy” and Sportscenter episodes beginning not with a rundown of football and baseball scores, but a quick roll call of all the multimillionaire ballplayers who valiantly refused to stand for the national anthem.
And on Sept. 24, 2017, the NFL finally went full retard.
Two days earlier, Trump made some rather caustic remarks about pro athletes who refused to stand for the national anthem, stating how awesome he’d think it would be if owners finally grew a set of testicles and told their players to cut out the commie shit and do what they’re paid to do – give each other concussions and serve as a bargaining chip for publicly-subsidized stadiums.
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Naturally, the media didn’t take too kindly to Trump’s comments, and the NFL—which, as evident by the League’s impressive yearly DUI and domestic abuse estimates, is roughly three-quarters African-American—-went into full blown SJW mode, with even its universally loathed commissioner Roger Goodell issuing a statement that this time around that the POTUS had gone too far.
The end result? Virtually every week 3 game of the NFL season featured predominantly black players linking arms and kneeling during the national anthem, with several teams refusing to even leave the locker room during the performance. This time, the message was crystal clear: the players weren’t kneeling and sitting down to protest “injustice” or “racism,” they were refusing to honor dead military personnel as a figurative way of saying “fuck the president.”
— Roger Goodell (@nflcommish) September 26, 2017
Of course, the commentators for the game spent more time talking about the protests than the on-field action. The game of football had become secondary to the politics of the day, and that’s a direct violation of the contract between sports viewer and sports provider. We watch football to get away from the rest of cultural orthodoxy, and by interjecting their maddening, anti-right drivel into the broadcast, the games themselves became unwatchable.
A silver lining?
At one point during Sunday night’s Oakland Raiders vs. Washington Redskins game, commentator Cris Collinsworth wondered out loud if the Raiders’ shitty performance could be attributed to the team spending more time figuring out what to do during the national anthem than actually preparing for the game itself. Of course, he quickly walked it back as soon as the words escaped his mouth, but he was dead on the money.
Instead of offering us hyper-violent escapism for millions of dollars, NFL players are now more concerned about virtue signalling than winning games. They think their big time TV platform gives them free rein to spout whatever identity politics nonsense they want, and we as loyal consumers have no choice but to suck it up. If you want the gridiron action, they seem to be telling us, then you’ll have to accept our heavy-handed bloviating as part of the package.
It’s a funny thing. Just a day earlier, I recalled watching the University of Georgia vs. Mississippi State college football game. Nobody protested on the sidelines. The commentators didn’t make a litany of pop cultural references. It was, for all intents and purposes, totally apolitical. The game felt like it took place in an atemporal vacuum, far removed from the rest of the TV landscape. This is a game that could’ve taken place in 2007, 1997, or 1987. It was devoid of the trappings of modernity, and in short, it felt truly timeless.
That’s a crucial variable the NFL is sacrificing with all of this “protesting” nonsense. The games are overshadowed by the prevailing politics of the day, and hardcore sports fans aren’t paying money to see partisan propaganda. The more the National Football League tries to market itself as “politically conscious,” the more it’s going to alienate the average, apolitical football viewer.
The backlash is already happening; that aforementioned Raiders/Redskins prime time tilt drew 10 percent fewer viewers than its prime time counterpart from this time last year. Once a guaranteed sellout 8 times a year, NFL teams are now struggling to even meet half capacity on gameday. And as the ultimate slight against the NFL’s attempt to politicize the product, in the aftermath of the week 3 protests the best-selling player jersey in the League belongs to Alejandro Villanueva – the only member of the Pittsburgh Steelers to come out of the tunnel to show his respect for the military before a Sept. 24 game against the Bears.
As a matter of fact, Villanueva—an ex-Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Iraq—has already issued what I believe is the most cogent rebuttal to the national anthem protest phenomenon.
“I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay,” Villanueva told ESPN, rather fittingly, when the whole protest brouhaha began this time last year. “You can’t do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country. I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year… when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year.”
The NFL and its protest-happy players might want to heed Villanueva’s words. After all, he is the League’s most popular player for a reason.