Sportswriter: My Profession Is Moving to the Left, Just Like the Rest of America

February 18th, 2017 4:03 PM

Lateral movement in one direction or the other routinely comes into play in sports. That’s not the case in sports media, which almost always go to the left. “Today, sportswriting is basically a liberal profession,” declared Bryan Curtis in a Thursday piece for The Ringer. Curtis noted that “Donald Trump’s election was merely an accelerant for a change that was already sweeping across sportswriting” and added, “Forget the viability of being a Trump-friendly sportswriter today. Could someone even be a Paul Ryan–friendly sportswriter…? ”

It’s possible, as Curtis acknowledged, that sportswriters in general have been liberal all along, but until recently their politics were hardly ever evident in their work. Then the Internet brought about what Curtis called a “loosening of the prose.” It also, he contended, facilitated mockery, and possibly inhibition, of conservative viewpoints by making “a local concern into a national one…Reactionary opinions that may have played in St. Louis or Cincinnati [in the pre-Internet era] are now held up for ridicule by the writers at Deadspin. I suspect a lot of sportswriters who might be right-leaning either get on the train or don’t write about politics at all.”

Apropos of figures like Colin Kaepernick, Curtis argued that “we’ve finally entered the second great age of athlete activism.” Moreover, “it’s not only athlete activism that has rejiggered sportswriting but the athletes’ increased power. In the ’60s, a sportswriter who merely wanted to be a stenographer to the powerful would cozy up to the league commissioner or owner…Now… the same power seeker is more likely to cozy up to LeBron James, or his agent…When you’re covering sports from the workers’ point of view instead of management’s, the trade inevitably moves to the left.”

Then again, Curtis suggested, maybe sportswriters just look like America as a whole, since they’re “probably being radicalized at roughly the same rate as the rest of the electorate  --  a process that began during George W. Bush’s administration and continued apace through the Obama years. If most Democrats you know seem feistier than they did 20 years ago, it follows that sportswriters would too.”

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Curtis, a self-described liberal, admitted that the “new world” of sportswriting “suits me just fine. Would it be nice to have a David Frum or Ross Douthat of sportswriting, making wrongheaded-but-interesting arguments about NCAA amateurism? Sure. As long as nobody believed them.” He does, however, still have a few complaints: “Sportswriters rarely touch issues like the antitrust exemption and the flag-waving militarism that drenches pro sports. (See Fox’s Super Bowl pregame show for one recent example.)”