Whether or not Donald Trump goes gentle into that good night (as if), it will be a while before the lefties who loathe the former POTUS let him go. For media types, he’s been such a handy vessel for their rage and blame that they’re reluctant to say goodbye.
The problem is that habitual hate doesn’t make good copy. For example, big-time lefty sports journo Will Leitch’s Jan. 24 article on NBC’s hard left site Think asserts that “Trump may no longer reside on Pennsylvania Avenue, but his specter still haunts the professional sports world.”
Yes, for Leitch and his fellow travelers the Orange Man leaves the “smell of sulfur” everywhere. But for everyone else, Leitch’s evidence of Trump’s shade shambling around the nation’s stadiums is pretty thin.
Leitch asserts that “it seems fair to assume that of all the major North American team sports, Major League Baseball has the most players who are Trump supporters.” Yet he names only two former players, and links to a 2016 article that cited one active player and three retirees (including John Rocker). Some owners were supporters, and commissioner Rob Manfred may have had Trumpy sympathies.
But as Trump’s fortunes began to wane, the league began to back away from him — they were also angry because of Trump’s Cuba policy — and the MLB's embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer caused Trump to ignore it altogether. (Later, the league also suspended all political donations to candidates or any party.)
And … how is baseball “haunted?”
Over in the NFL, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick supported Trump initially. Belichick recently refused Trump’s proffered Medal of Freedom but, ominously, Leitch says that Brady “reportedly bought land in the same exclusive Miami community as Ivanka Trump.”
How could he stand to be in the same zip code?!
Trump certainly involved himself in the NFL’s kneeling controversy. “In 2017, he said owners should pull the “sons of b------”off the field if they kneeled, called the game boring and encouraged his supporters to boycott the league entirely,” Leitch writes. This is true, and the NFL certainly took note.But it’s become conventional wisdom on the left that the league bowed to Trump in not allowing kneeling and by “blackballing” Colin Kaepernick.
The league didn’t countenance kneeling before Trump butted in; the fans hated it. Kaepernick is out of football because he walked away from the 49ers in March 2017. That and the kneeling sure made it look like he wasn’t much interested in football anymore. What team would invest a couple million dollars and possibly a season to find out if an activist prima donna wouldn’t be an unproductive headache?
Remember when, after the BLM rioting started, NASCAR decided to ban Confederate flags at its events? It had nothing to do with Trump (nothing about the George Floyd killing had to do with Trump) but Leitch cites it as “Trump’s harrowing Confederate flag debacle” and links to an article that contains not a single mention of Trump.
Elsewhere, Leitch mentions the president’s “Twitter war with Bubba Wallace and NASCAR.” It wasn’t much of a war. It consisted of a very Trumpy tweet that read “Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
The shots from the other side amounted to some statements by Wallace and his fellow drivers. What hoax was Trump asking about? Wallace, “the lone top-tier Black NASCAR driver,” started driving a BLM car, and soon thereafter discovered a “noose” hanging in his assigned garage at a racetrack. Clearly, he was the victim of a hate crime. Or maybe the victim of a garage door pull tied with a handy loop, like the one in the next garage and the thousands that have been since people started using garage doors. That’s what the FBI investigation found, anyway.
The NBA? As Leitch says, “Political activism has been growing in the NBA for years — remember when LeBron James called Trump “U bum” on Twitter?” Yes. Speaking of hoaxes, do you remember when LeBron claimed someone scrawled a racial epithet on the gate of one of his homes? The cops never saw the graffiti, never found any evidence regarding a culprit and gave up. Funny, isn’t it?
Leitch says NBA agitation:
exploded in 2020 as the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and the election led to an unprecedented crescendo of social justice advocacy. The Milwaukee Bucks actually skipped a playoff game because of the shooting of Jacob Blake, and James’ organization More Than a Vote became so powerful that its promotion of NBA arenas as early voting sites may have helped swing the election in cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia and Detroit. (And considering high Fulton County turnout, it may have been decisive in the Georgia runoffs as well.)
Again, Trump had nothing to do with Floyd or Jacob Blake. The NBA may have made a concerted political effort against any Republican -- we won’t know until there are more elections for comparison. Trump may have motivated their activism. He certainly motivated a lot of activism for and against him. Is this going to “haunt” the league or does Leitch just need to fill space?
Leitch admits that Trump remained popular in college football, “But Trump’s brand of politics, and in particular his willingness to ignore the pandemic, was mirrored by the administrators and commissioners this coronavirus season, which was a mess start to finish and may end up aging incredibly poorly.”
Damning stuff. Leitch goes on to mention the perpetually angry ladies of the WNBA, but the only thing they’re going to be haunted by long-term is empty arenas.
The political world will be living with the after effects of the Trump administration, but sports will be fine, as long as Trump Obsessives like Leitch can let go.