Recently, ESPN personality Jemele Hill tweeted her distaste for Donald Trump. ESPN issued their own apology for Hill but not before droves of people announced that ESPN, their analysts, and players should “stick to sports”.
In order to do that, we’d have to go get a DeLorean, tune it up, install the Flux Capacitor, and head back to June 19th, 1936 for a boxing match.
Sports and Politics is Over 80 Years Old
The scene was set at Yankee Stadium for not only a showdown between the United States and Germany but a heavy dose of race relations in America as well.
Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis represented poor African Americans as well as the entire United States as he went up against German born Max Schmeling. It was no doubt a politically themed event, with stories leading up to the fight insinuating the dire consequences if Louis should fail to prevail.
The fight went to Schmeling by knock out. America was in shock, the favorite had lost, and Hitler’s best boxer had waltzed into the Bronx and put him on his back.
“The thoughts of all my countrymen were with me; the Fuehrer and his faithful people were thinking of me. This thought gave me the strength to succeed. It gave me the courage to win this victory for Germany.” – Max Schmeling after his win against Joe Louis
Later that same summer, America got a bit of retribution for the Joe Louis loss as Olympian Jesse Owens went to Berlin, Germany and broke or equaled nine Olympic records and set three world records winning four gold medals.
104 years ago today, Jesse Owens was born!
The man who spoiled Hitler's 1936 games, winning 4 gold medals…
A hero and a legend 🙌 pic.twitter.com/eIgtoccggb
— BigSport (@BigSportGB) September 12, 2017
Hitler’s superior race watched as an African American decimated the competition, especially from Germany.
“Although I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either.” – Jesse Owens on returning home after his historic Olympic wins in 1936
Just two years later, Louis and Schmeling met again. This time Schmeling stated that he was going to “build tanks” with the money he won. Louis battered him into throwing in the towel in just a few minutes. America was back on top again, an electric shock of nationalism surged through the public. Even though the public was still segregated, they could feel united by the political undertones of Louis’ big win.
“Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain’t going to fix them.” – Joe Louis
So, now you’re Mad at Jemele Hill?
The story of Jemele Hill instilling her opinions about Donald Trump made twitter explode and actually made the news. The backlash was mostly calling for her to stick to sports as if whatever job you have means you aren’t allowed to be opinionated on anything else. The next time a plumber wants to talk baseball maybe he should head to the toilet and check the float arm.
Today, the White House press secretary used the people's podium to call for the firing of an individual citizen, @jemelehill. Take that in.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) September 13, 2017
Jemele Hill having her personal opinions on her personal twitter account shouldn’t impact those who don’t follow her. And if you previously followed her you’d know that she has always blended pop culture, politics, race, gender, and other social issues into her sports. It’s actually something she and co-host Michael Smith of the show His and Her’s are known for.
It’s also not the first time a pundit or athlete has made their opinion well known. In fact, just last year before the election Tom Brady danced around accusations that he supported Trump or that he may vote for him. He didn’t have to apologize for that, mostly because Kraft and Trump are pretty good friends, or so they say. Brady also never tweeted his opinion but only answered reporters’ questions after seeing a “Make America Great Again” hat at his locker.
In 2010, Rick Perry bought his way onto a NASCAR. I’m guessing Bobby Labonte didn’t get called half the names that Jemele Hill is being called today. The ire and rage that comes from ESPN fans over having a secret agenda to push liberal ideas seem to only surface when it’s just that, liberal ideas. When conservative ideals surface it isn’t the same problem.
Maybe those on the left are no longer watching sports? Or maybe they’d rather just not know, trying desperately to keep sports and politics separate by ignoring things that are out in the open.
No One Blames the Owners, Only the Help
NFL ownership contributed about $9 million to political campaigns last year. They didn’t necessarily make it public when they did it, but it is public knowledge. Most of the money went to Republican Super Pacs with only a fraction going toward the Democratic nominees.
Bob McNair & Drayton McLain, owners of Texans & Astros are GOP mega-donors. Anti-welfare except for their stadiums https://t.co/fQoyw0UJS5
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) August 31, 2017
Supporting a nominee financially is an endorsement of what that candidate or think tank believes in. Houston Texans majority owner Bob McNair donated over $7 million last year to conservative groups and Super Pacs that help fund Republicans. That never raised any ire from the public because it’s not something that Mr. McNair tweeted about.
Vikings former punter Chris Kluwe called McNair out on funding a conservative group that was against equal rights. The letter made McNair rescind the donation. To put it into perspective, McNair donated $1 million to Harvey relief and was hailed a hometown hero.
The ideologies that are funded by these Super Pacs may not align with your personal stances, much like Kaepernick and Jemele Hill’s. But the owners are much better at hiding the truth and aren’t as public, so it’s easier for them to escape the public wrath. Plus, NFL ownership and fan base weighs heavily to the right, who also seem to take issue with Kaepernick and Hill calling members of the right racist or unfair/unjust.
The left has seemingly forgotten to pay closer attention to NFL ownership and what sorts of agenda’s they might be pushing. Yes, Jemele Hill has many followers and what she says can have an impact on some young minds. But the country is run on capitalism, and few have done it better than NFL ownership.
Sports and Politics Comes from Us
Leaning on athletes to bring political awareness or social awareness is, historically, acceptable when the majority can back it. But the last 40 years have proved politics to be way more divisive than ever before. Sports and politics have always commingled and coexisted, especially since sports have been broadcasted to the country.
It doesn't matter if she is right or wrong. What matters is whether viewers want to hear politics while watching sports stories.
— Bodhi 3323 (@Bodhi3323) September 13, 2017
Since it has always existed, it isn’t something new, but only being more noticed because of our current political climate. Sports and politics aren’t being brought together by forces pushing agendas, they melded together because of us.
So unless someone invents a time machine and pleads the nation to set the precedent with the first Joe Louis fight to never bring the two together, they’re inseparable.