- - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Remember when major sports united our country?

The major sports’ team owners, coaches and players used to see bringing people together — while they also competed with all their might on the field of play — as part of their mission. Then-Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman left football to enlist and fight in Afghanistan to protect the homefront from terrorists. Tillman gave his life to keep America strong and unified.

Who can forget the moment after 9/11, when President Bush threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium? Sports once brought the whole country together. The Super Bowl, March Madness the World Series — these events are tentpoles of our lives. 

What are we getting from major sports today?

The Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill denounced America recently as “founded on racist ideas.” The team skipped out on practice that day to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Someone taught Mr. Tannehill a false history about America. What part of “all men are created equal,” as the Declaration of Independence says, is racist? How can someone surrounded with Black millionaire athletes possibly think this country, the least racist in the world and founded on the ideal of equality, is rotten at its roots? 

The NBA is even worse. The NBA decided to take the day off by boycotting their own playoff games. As the streets of once-sleepy Kenosha were set on fire by leftist rioters pretending to care about Black lives, basketball gave its fans nothing to cheer for. It just made more people even angrier. 

Boycotting themselves was stupid. Blake would be a poor choice for anyone’s rallying cry. He had an arrest warrant for third-degree sexual assault when police confronted him. Blake knew this when the police arrived and it surely affected his behavior. The police officers also knew he is prone to violence. 

Blake had a knife on him. For all the police knew, he may have had a gun in that car he tried to get into. He resisted arrest so much that officers tased him twice but it failed. As Blake knew, he was not even allowed to be where he was that day thanks to a restraining order his girlfriend had gotten against him. She accused him of repeated sexual assaults whenever he drinks too much. 

Whether seven shots were warranted to stop him is being investigated. Justice takes time. We only recently found out that George Floyd had enough fentanyl in his system to be considered a lethal dose on that fateful day when police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, confronted him for passing counterfeit money. Bodycam video released weeks into the rioting over Floyd’s death indicates that he resisted arrest and claimed he couldn’t breathe when police were just trying to put him into the patrol car. 

This is who the NBA wants to honor with a protest? Do these facts matter? Would Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali approve?

The millionaire NBA athletes’ protest only lasted one game. They didn’t resume play because all is suddenly right with the world. They resumed play once they learned the boycott would hit their bank accounts. They found out that the league would lose nearly a billion dollars in TV money. The players’ pay could be cut. Money being the main thing these spoiled athletes care about, not the nation that pays them eye-watering sums to play a kids’ game, they changed their tune and got right back onto the court. 

The problem for the NBA and other major sports now is that America got used to life without them. The pandemic cut seasons short, and Americans adjusted. Life went on. 

When play finally did resume, ratings were way down from last year. Why? It’s not like Americans still stuck in shutdowns can’t make time to watch sports on TV. Americans are tuning out because we learned a very important thing when sports went away: The leagues need us a whole lot more than we need them.

We pay their salaries in tickets, concessions and team memorabilia. We pay for their stadiums in taxpayer subsidies and confiscations at car rentals and hotel rooms. These leagues and their athletes would lose their money if we just stop watching them. And now that pro athletes and teams are pledging to use their wealth to push more and more fraudulent social justice warriorism, it’s too much. 

They want to defund the police? Police serve an important function in our society. Pro athletes don’t. We should defund them. All of them. No more taxpayer subsidies for any stadiums. No more massive TV contracts. No more fake journalists telling Americans how terrible we are. No more. As someone who loves the Philadelphia 76ers all this pains me to say.

We made them. We can break them. And we should. 

• A.J. Rice is CEO of Publius Public Relations. Find out more at publiuspr.com.

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