Into Left Field: 5 of the Most Obnoxious Political Intrusions on Sports

It’s Opening Day week and all things are new again. Except the fact that liberals won’t let us just be happy watching our sports. That’s not new. In fact, as anyone who’s read Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer” knows, determined liberals have been trying to suck the joy out of the sporting endeavor for decades.

But it does seem that the space carved out for the care-free enjoyment of our favorite sports is shrinking a little bit every year. Sycophantic ESPN is being used to sell Obamacare in exchange for the president’s bracket picks. Obama’s now annual interview has been ruining the guacamole at Super Bowl parties since 2009. 

Each year for the last decade, while golf fans have looked forward to the Masters as the unofficial start of the real PGA season, New York Times writers have used it as hook from which to beat up on the tournament’s home, Augusta National, for not allowing women members. An ESPN broadcaster worried that Redskins QB Robert Griffin III wasn’t black enough: “Is he a brother or is he a cornball brother?” 

Last year, Democratic lawmakers held closed-door discussions with the heads of the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL about helping to whip up a climate panic, possibly conjuring images of whole hockey teams drowning in practice. Last month, Democratic numbers cruncher Nate Silver and his website joined ESPN, the once and current home of Keith Olbermann. 

On the field pink sweat bands, batting gloves, shoes and presumably jockstraps make extravagant shows of concern for breast cancer, (as long as the pink-bedecked players aren’t in a post-game prayer circle) 

Oh, to be sure, big time American sports still have trappings that annoy liberals – “The Star Spangled Banner” is a “war anthem” that shouldn’t be played before sporting events. There’s no room in sports for displays of patriotism. (No room in American sports, that is. Its entirely permissible in international soccer – something about creepy chanting and foreigners in shorts makes jingoism downright fashionable to liberal hipsters). 

But when politics and ideology intrude on sports, they usually do so from the left, and there just isn’t enough room for an exhaustive list of examples. So here are a few of the more obnoxious left-wing incursions into the distractions called sports that we Americans cherish.

1. The Redskins: Take a handful of American Indian activists, add the arrogant liberal sports press and suddenly, anybody who doesn’t think the Redskins need to change their name is “on the wrong side of history.”

Led by Mike Wise (The Most Important Sports Columnist in the World, Ever) and other hacks at The Washington Post, liberal media types have launched a jihad against the Redskins. In just one year, the Post dedicated at least 32,000 words to the campaign – roughly the length of “Hamlet.” Except, Shakespeare thought a lot more of his audience than the sneering gang at the Post does. 

In Jan., 2013, Columnist Courtland Milloy was positively gleeful that the Redskins’ fortunes had turned for the worse. “So Washington football fans, how’s that offensive team name and demeaning sports mascot working out?” He gloated over the serious injury to star Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and sniffed, “Bad karma, I tell you, that team name.” 

That’s nothing compared to Wise, who declared last October that the group of busybodies that agree with him about the ’Skins team name is “called the world’s tribe, and it is bigger and infinitely more powerful than an 80-year-old fan base and its idea of ‘tradition.’” Unfortunately, Wise’s own paper noted that “key constituencies are absent from the name-change bandwagon: many of the nation's 5.2 million Native Americans, the NFL, advertisers and the football team’s die-hard fans.” 

Wise, USA Today’s Christine Brennan, and others have decided they won’t call the team by its name anymore – including Slate and Mother Jones (because who doesn’t go to moonbat lefty sites for their NFL news?) Harry Reid and Barack Obama have also, predictably, weighed in against the Redskins. 

And then Bob Costas had at the ’Skins during halftime of one of their 2013 games against Dallas, lecturing the national audience that Redkins can’t be “considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.” 

2. Gun Control: Costas likes to lecture. In December of 2012, he gave America the benefit of his conventional liberal wisdom on the Second Amendment.

That week, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the head in front of his coaches. During halftime of a Dallas-Philadelphia game that Sunday, Costas read from the column of Kansas City-based sports writer Jason Whitlock, blaming America’s “gun culture” for the tragedy.

“Handguns do not enhance our safety,” Costas quoted from Whitlock. “They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, and their possible connection to football, will be analyzed.... If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and [girlfriend] Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.” 

The attention spurred Whitlock to into a weird tirade in an interview the following day. “The NRA is the new KKK,” he said, and claimed the “arming of so many black youths, uh, and loading up our community with drugs, and then just having an open shooting gallery, is the work of people who obviously don’t have our best interests” at heart.

3. The Great Gay Hope: Journalists like to see themselves reflected through any issue they can slap the “civil rights” label on. They think it lends a sheen of nobility to a thoroughly degraded profession. And as one Washington Post reporter recently called it, the gay agenda is “the civil rights issue of our time.”

It makes sense that the sports journalists who keep assuring us “the issue of sports and homosexuality isn't going away,” fawn over any athlete who talks positively about gay marriage, and wonder where the gay Jackie Robinson is

Twice now, within a year, that gay Jackie Robinson has emerged. Except, he sort of didn’t. Jason Collins was very late in a journeyman NBA career when he came out in a glossy Sports Illustrated spread. Then, in February, a potential fourth round NFL draft pick declared his “own truth,” and came out as gay. Having taken the “courageous” step of joining society’s most trendy and celebrated grievance group, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam began basking in the media adulation.

Neither Sam nor Collins quite fits the Jackie Robinson bill. Collins, a free-agent at the time of his announcement, didn’t get a team in the offseason, and was playing on short-term contracts for the Nets. Sam may or may not belong in high draft rounds because some of his stats are questionable (inflated against bad opponents). 

But no matter. ABC’s George Stephanopoulis dropped every thing to fly to L.A. for an interview with Collins, while his Good Morning America colleagues celebrate back in New York.  ESPN’s Chris Connelly stressed stressed to Sam, “You could become the first openly gay player in the NFL, that’s a momentous thing.” And Connelly sounded momentous just saying it. To Sam’s contention that’s he’s “a football player,” Connelly, corrected him: “You’re a football player responsible for a landmark moment within American sports right now.” Yeah, we can all walk a little taller knowing a guy who likes dudes might play in the NFL. 

When Collins came out, the aforementioned Mike Wise wanted to make super double sure it be known far and wide that anyone who stinted on the champagne and confetti had incurred his hatred. Poor ESPN reporter Chris Broussard (about the only public voice of dissent amid the fawning, celebratory hype) had the temerity to answer honestly when asked about Collins. Wise sneered at the “heterosexual religious zealots” who “used [Collins’] historic announcement to call homosexuality a sin and an open rebellion toward God and otherwise trumpeted their bigotry under the guise of ‘religious beliefs.’” 

But those are just the highest profile examples. Others are more troubling, such as NBC News’ run-up to the Sochi Olympics, when the Peacock networks gave 13 times more coverage to Russian anti-gay laws than to murderous attacks on Syrian Christians. “Today” host Matt Lauer practically salivated at the idea that athletes stage a Big Gay Moment. Lauer repeatedly pressed gay athletes and U.S. delegates if they would push the boundaries and break Olympics rules in making a statement at the Winter Games.

(Incidentally, the Winter Olympics were the same games in which NBC whitewashed the Soviet Union as “one of modern history’s pivotal experiments,”  and NBC’s Meredith Vieira called the Evil Empire’s downfall “bittersweet.”) 

4. Tebowling for Christians: The case of Tim Tebow represents the other side of the special pleasing coin. At a time when The Internet is rife with “All-Criminal NFL Fantasy” teams and running lists of current and former all-pro offenders, the most hated man in pro-football was for a while, Tim Tebow. He was the Heismann Trophy and national championship winning QB with the Florida Gators. Despite limited natural ability, he won games he shouldn’t have by fiery competitiveness, personal determination and leaderhip. But he wore Bible verses in his eye black, he knelt and prayed during games. He did a controversial pro-life ad with his mom. Most horrible, perhaps, he was an unashamed virgin. 

So for liberals in the sports media, what’s not to hate? Nothing, actually. Here are a few of the more entertaining of the Tebow-hate examples: 

On Tebow’s eye-black, Huffington Post's Mark Axelrod wrote in 2010, "So, am I to believe that Florida beat Oklahoma because Tim Tebow had John 3:16 painted beneath his eyes?"

On Tebow being traded to the Jets: Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation, magazine, told MSNBC, “There are a lot of LGBT people that live in New York City who are also football fans and they might want to know why the new, possibly, starting quarterback for the New York Jets wants them to move backwards 30 or 40 years.”  Turns out, Tebow was powerless to move the Jets in any direction, 30 or 40 yards. 

On Tebow’s contention that he does his best and with God’s help he’ll succeed, CBS Sports.com’s Gregg Doyel spat, “Tebow has basically said, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘I’ll be a starter in this league because God loves me that much.’” 

“I want Tim Tebow to fail,” wrote one Jeff Pearlman after the QB’s senior year. “I want a team to draft him in the sixth round, then I want him to report to training camp, throw a bunch of dying quails and be cut. Why? Tim Tebow scares me, and – judging from his father’s website, his upcoming Super Bowl ad and mounting knowledge of his way of life – he should scare you, too.” Tebow, it seems, “plays football because he wants to spread the word of Jesus Christ.” The horror. Elsewhere, The Examiner condemned Tebow’s “obnoxious and gratuitous display of Christian Imperialism.”

The hate has gotten downright loopy. Back in 2011, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman thought he had a “Tebow Problem” if a Tebow-led Denver Broncos could beat his New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. Hammerman imagined that the rubes in fly-over country regarded the “blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states” as the “Sons of Darkness, with their perfectly coiffed Hollywood quarter back” their “diabolical hoodie-clad coach” and “the most identifiably Jewish owner in sports.” Against Tebow, the “poster boy of the Christian right,” they’d be “playing the role of Pilate.” (In the event, the Broncos lost, forestalling Tebow’s Christian fans from “burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants” in celebration, as Hammerman had warned.) 

So far, Tebow’s career hasn’t panned out, but the hate still lingers, and there are some in the sports media who recognize it for what it is. “Inside the NFL” analyst and former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth said in 2011 it was “unbelievable that one of the best kids – just pure kids that's ever come into the NFL – is hated because of his faith, because of his mission work, because of the fact that he wears it on his sleeve, because of the fact that he lives his life that he talks about.”

5. Rush to Judgment: Did you know Bill Maher owns a piece of the N.Y. Mets? Yeah, the guy that called Sarah Palin a “c***,” a t*** and M***; who recently called God a “d***” and a psychotoic mass murderer”; who gave gay activist and anti-bullying bully Dan Savage a forum rage against the Catholic Church; who said “Now that liberals have forwarded their agenda by inserting a mass gay wedding into the Grammys, conservatives must match them tit-for-tat by having a mass shooting at the Country Music Awards.” Yes, Bill Maher, the lefty HBO talk show host who hates the half of the country that don’t agree with him.

Maher bought into the team with $20 million a couple of years ago. Nobody protested or asked MLB to ban him. The players association didn’t object. The New York Times thought it was just swell.

And it is swell. Maher’s odious “comedy” aside, as long as it doesn’t bother Mets fans (who’ve had plenty else to be bothered about in recent years) he should be able to own part of the team.

 Unfortunately, that’s not so when a controversial conservative wants to invest in a sports team. When Rush Limbaugh wanted to join group seeking to buy the trouble St. Louis Rams NFL franchise, The New York Times got the vapors, reporting – with no detectable sense of irony – that Al Sharpton sent the NFL a letter asking it to reject a bid from any group containing the racially “divisive” Limbaugh.

Times Sports columnist  George Vecsy wrote a long piece accusing Limbaugh of using “code words to his political constituency.” Limbaugh is a racist, no proof needed, be cause Vecsy, like all omniscient liberals, recognizes code words. Oh, Rush is fat too, because Vecsy talked of “Limbaugh’s double chins quivering with joy at the rejection of the Olympic bid” [for Chicago, where Obama went to personally plead with the Olympic Commission and failed].

In the end, nothing came of Rush’s interest in the Rams. The race industry and the media had spoken. You have to wonder, however, if the Koch Brothers might be interested in a professional sports franchise …

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture