Just Be Cauz - Do Politics and Sports Mix?

Do sports and politics mix?

That is the question that has been bouncing around ever since Dan Shulman announced that Osama bin Laden was dead during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game.

I was watching when the news broke and like everyone else was stunned and immediately turned over to news for more information.

My own feelings on his death are irrelevant for this piece but needless to say it was a mixture of emotions. Happy to hear that he is dead but also this news was a reminder of just how long this “war” has been going on and how many people are dead as a result.

Listening to the ‘Bryan Hayes Show’ today on TSN Radio the topic came up on whether or not sports and politics should be allowed to hang out together. I understand the argument for why not. Sports are supposed to be a refuge from reality and would anyone really want to get any political insight from people in Sports Media.

However sports and politics do mix, they have walked side by side in our society for as long as sport has existed.

In fact some of the most memorable and poignant moments in sports are not about the game but the bigger issues that surround them.

Do you remember U2 performing ‘Streets with No Names’ at the 2002 Super Bowl as they paid homage to the victims from 911? I bet you do.

I doubt you can watch it without getting a little bit emotional.

Politics defines our athletes for better or worse. Jim Brown would rush head first into issues of social equality while Michael Jordan would run away from it with asinine statements like “Republicans buy shoes as well.”

When you think about Muhammad Ali's narrative his politics were just as important as his pugilism.

Carlos Delgado refused to stand for God Bless America in 2004 during the 7th inning stretch to protest the war while Tommie Smith & John Carlos stood up for Black Power Salute at the 1968 Summer Games

Steve Nash lost a lot of popularity with his anti war feelings over the years while his owner Robert Sarver once had the Phoenix Sun uniforms change their name to Los Suns as a protest against the State of Arizona passing tougher immigration laws.

How about the greatest spectacle in sports, The Olympics? The lead up is often more about policy than athletic performance. Wasn’t the Beijing Games sold as a way to help bring Western ideals about democracy to China?

Finally there’s Pat Tillman, he gave his life for political ideals.

So don’t tell me the two don’t belong together. When done right (Steve Nash) they can make sports better. Yes I know sports are entertainment and they are a wonderful escape. I would rather lose myself in box scores than the horrors in Africa. But sometimes we need a hefty dollop of reality and sports helps deliver it to many of us that can’t stand what we see on the evening news.

The negative side is the uniformed athlete who will spout off ignorant claims and suddenly we need to boycott athletes opinions on issues more important than the BCS.  Hey we see that example in every facet of life, from clueless actors to teachers who bring too much of their own agenda to the classroom. I think we can all agree that from Tom Hardaway to Lindsay Lohan there are many people who should heed the advice that silence is golden.

I would rather live in a world where an athlete can openly and publically cheer for the death of a terrorist but also weigh in with educated thoughts about taboo topics such as abortion, immigration or how to educate our kids. Of course professional leagues and an army of public relations people will try to stifle the latter opinions, which is a shame.

We don’t live in a world where these two institutions can both exist in their own separate vacuums, they’re in bed together so we may as well not only accept that but find the best way to make they’re relationship work.

Ps: I hope everyone voted!


  1. Good article! Completely agree, as long as Rashard Mendenhall is not given the right to voice his opinion :). I think you could make a greater argument that sports and politics serve the same purpose, than you could that they don't relate at all.

  2. Thanks so much Angelo. Yeah Mendenhall belongs in the camp that should keep quite until they have done the proper amount of research. To quoteAbraham Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt" ... Rashard should heed that advice.


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