Election Day is Tuesday, which means I’ll likely get the famous line from a number of viewers to “Stick To Sports.”
I chuckle at that statement. Because while the election itself might be up in the air – and I say this with no ill-intention - I believe the “Stick To Sports” crowd has already lost.
Don't get me wrong: I have always understood that many fans just want to watch a game for entertainment without having political statements or social causes “shoved down their throats.” I absolutely sympathize with the notion of sports being an outlet – a form of entertainment intended to provide an escape from the stresses and hassles of everyday life.
In theory, that makes sense.
But haven’t sports always failed to just "stick to sports?" No one was up in arms when leagues devoted entire months to promoting Breast Cancer Awareness or “Salute to Service. This weekend, you couldn’t watch a game without seeing some sort of political commercial. None of that is new.
What IS more frequent is the exposure to the types of causes that seem to be more polarizing, whether they should be viewed that way or not: Social injustice. Police brutality. Black Lives Matter. Then there’s the flat-out political backing by athletes, former athletes and even a sports franchise like the Seattle Storm’s public endorsement of Joe Biden. “Stick to Sports,” they said.
This week, legendary hockey player Bobby Orr, Hall of Famer Brett Favre and golfing great Jack Nicklaus all posted public endorsements of Donald Trump. The response to them was similar: Stay In Your Lane.
But that’s simply not going to happen.
A conscious decision has clearly been made from figures all over the sports world that they’re willing to risk popularity in order to express their beliefs. The “stick to sports” crowd is fighting a losing battle. And in the process, it’s exposed a notion that’s often overlooked.
The statement “Stick To Sports” is normally used a reaction – not a concept. And it’s a reaction that actually means “Stick To Sports... unless your message is one I agree with.”
For example, the same people telling LeBron James to just dribble a ball weren’t telling Jack Nicklaus to shut up and get back to the driving range. And the same people ripping Brett Favre and telling him to stay in his lane aren’t denouncing the Seattle Storm for their Biden endorsement too.
Whether the leagues and teams themselves will ultimately lose revenue because of lower ratings is stil up in the air. But so far, it hasn’t prevented anyone from speaking their truth.
And in the end, if one positive that comes out of all of this is the increased attention to voting, then maybe it was worth it. Because when push comes to shove, democracy – and the democratic process - is even more important than sports.
Which means, if you tell me to “stick to sports,” to me at least, you’re essentially telling me to ignore a value and a freedom that makes this country so great.