An ongoing debate among sports’ enthusiasts is whether college athletes should be able to financially benefit from team endorsements, from team sponsors and boosters, from team ticket sales, from agent deals — or even have agents to make the deals — with one side saying yes, players make the money, they ought to get a piece of the money, and the other saying no, money will ruin the sport.
Well, that’s a moot point now — and not simply because the NCAA seems poised to relax profit restrictions against college athletes.
It’s politics, rather, that has already ruined sports.
We have to thank for that Colin Kaepernick, with his anti-police pig socks and the on-bended-knee activism that should have been done on his personal time, not pregame gimmicks.
Kaepernick was the kickoff, some years back, and ever since it’s been mind-numbing, joy-destroying, fun-killing nearly non-stop field politicking.
“National anthem shouldn’t be played at sporting events,” Yahoo Sports opined in June.
The piece went on to say, “It never made sense to play the national anthem before games in American sports leagues. And yet, all of them do it.”
Right. That’s because a) it’s long-running tradition, going back to the early 1900s in the World Series and b) it’s a way of reminding players about to enter the sports equivalent of a military battle that, in the end, no matter whom you root for, we’re all on the same side: Team America.
This reminder is good for players and fans alike.
Now? A glance at one recent day’s sports headlines.
“NBA intends to resume playoffs in coming days after walkout over Jacob Blake shooting,” NBC News wrote.
“Naomi Osaka won’t play semifinal in stance for racial justice, tournament paused,” NBC News also wrote.
“Pro sports teams delay games after Milwaukee Bucks refuse to play in protest of Jacob Blake shooting,” NBC News again wrote.
“Ex-NBA player to striking pro athletes: ‘Push for more,’” NBC News once again wrote.
“Kansas City Chiefs ban headdresses and face paint appropriating American Indian culture,” NBC News once more wrote.
Jeez. One day’s news reporting. From one single news organization.
That’s after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took umbrage at North Carolina’s law requiring transgenders to use the bathrooms that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates, and moved the All-Stars to New Orleans. That’s after the widely reported U.S. women’s national soccer team suit over alleged wage discrimination — despite the fact the women draw far fewer fans than the men’s league. That’s after all the highly paid athletes taking to award shows and television interviews and social media to lecture and scold and admonish America’s police for racism; America’s citizens on social justice; America’s President Donald Trump on anything he does; on Trump supporters for daring to support Trump.
That’s after the Panthers’ Cam Newton made a sensible statement in GQ about America being “beyond race,” only to feel the fierce heat of those who don’t think America is “beyond race” — who don’t want, for whatever personal reason, America to be “beyond race.”
That’s after New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees made a similarly sensible statement about the patriotism of standing for the flag of the United States, only to feel the fierce heat of the flag-kneelers and flag-burners — only to turn in public relations terror and apologize for his sensible patriotic view.
That’s after NASCAR — NASCAR! Official Sport of the South NASCAR — issued a ban on Confederate flags.
That’s after Black Lives Matter signs on the field, after Hands Up, Don’t Shoot activist displays of players, after walk-offs and walk-outs, boycotts and botched season returns. Simply put, Americans are sick of it.
Americans go to sports for one main reason and one main reason alone: for the love of the game.
Politics, non-stop politicking, politically-charged players, politically correct coaches and leagues and team owners have destroyed that love.
If only we could return to the days when the big discussion was about money. Or even — gasp, gasp, how about this — the game.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.