By Roger Koopman
They call it social justice. Who could possibly be against that? But most often, these are just code words for the politics of the left. Well-meaning, kind-hearted persons frequently get caught up in these movements, knowing little about the drum to which the parade is marching. When individuals show their ignorance, it's kinda sad. But when professional sports teams do, it's a travesty.
Politics by any other name is still politics, with all its unpleasant aromas. If there's one thing we should know by now, it's that politics and team sports do not mix. Why? Partly because the fans are not paying for politics. They don't sit down with their family – at the stadium or in front of the TV set – to be a captive audience to someone else's politics, to be propagandized with someone else's values, beliefs and ideologies. They come to watch a game, to escape from the world's worries for a few hours and to be left the hell alone. These fans feel used, abused and betrayed when their beloved team endorses a political movement that deeply offends them and violates their conscience. Can you blame them?
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Teams getting involved in politics is also a bad idea because of the pressure it places on the players themselves, who have been trained to function as one unit, bound together in a special fellowship unique to team sports. They are conditioned to function as a team, not as individuals. Political views, on the other hand, are distinctly diverse and individualistic. The notion of a "team political position" is patently absurd. We're talking about individuals here, not a social movement or a political party. We are speaking of young men and women who are totally dedicated to being the best athletes they can possibly be. Very few would view themselves as political activists. One day, perhaps. But at this stage in their lives, learning to hit a slider or sack a quarterback probably takes precedence over the study of political and economic theory. Yet without a thorough understanding of the ideas behind the agendas on the evening news, it might be wisest to hit the slider and recognize the pitch called politics as low and outside.
Still, if professional players, as individuals, want to express publicly their political philosophy or their position on a given issue, most fans would totally respect their right to do so. Let them freely speak! In an environment that respects individual differences, we would undoubtedly find that players have viewpoints just as diverse as their fans. Some are pro-life; some favor abortion rights. Some support gun ownership; some want gun control. Some believe in free markets; some trust government planning. Some like "the wall"; some want it torn down. An entire roster of players and coaches cannot possibly think alike on any given subject or political proposition, and respect for individual freedom of conscience is what America has always been about. Any team policy that subtly compels an individual player to hide his privately held values and beliefs and adopt the "collective beliefs" derived from a team meeting, is guilty of spiritual and intellectual tyranny.
Certainly, it takes courage to speak up as an individual – which probably explains why few players (especially conservative players) ever do. It also requires being confident of your views, through personal study and reflection, and the inner strength to think for oneself. On the other hand, it takes no courage at all to join the mob. It takes courage to resist the mob. When, to a man, the team I loved kneeled for the national anthem, I was heartsick. These were my heroes, who were now endorsing radical left-wing politics, and proclaiming to every kid in our country that America is a fatally flawed, unjust and racist place. Imagine. It took thousands of crazed criminals burning down our cities to finally bring players to this conclusion. They called it "unity," but there's a big difference between unity and conformity, between solidarity and stupidity.
In case the players hadn't noticed, this nation has made enormous strides since the early days of the civil rights movement, when institutional racism truly existed. And in case they hadn't noticed, there is absolutely no disagreement across the political spectrum that what happened to George Floyd was profoundly wrong. There is no issue. Moreover, no rational person can argue that the bad actions of one bad cop should be laid at the feet of all cops everywhere. That's madness. It's also madness to believe the bad actions of one or even a dozen police officers represent the America of 2020. The Floyd incident is a divisive issue only to those whose goal it is to divide, a weapon to foment violence and hatred against our neighbors and the nation we love. Ultimately, it's a foreign-inspired blueprint for destabilizing our country.
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This is one law-abiding, patriotic American who is simply fed up. I have had it with media spinmeisters who try to turn killing, burning, looting and cop-hating into something with a moral message. I've had it with politicians who promote the spirit-crushing lies of victimhood, systemic racism and the "evils" of a free society based on family, faith and our Founding Fathers. I've had it with the Antifa barbarians who are torching our forests and sacking our cities, and with the BLM Marxists who are tearing down our statues and spitting in the face of liberty itself. And I've had it with professional sports teams – having little understanding – locking arms with those violent, radical forces that may one day bring our nation to its knees.
I've been a devoted Dodgers fan since the mid-'50s, watching "Dem Bums" on black-and-white TV with my Brooklyn-raised father. I doubt I can ever watch a Dodgers game again. In the early days of Brooklyn, the Dodgers were dodging trollies. Now, like professional sports in general, they are dodging basic decency and respect – not only for their fans, but for their country and for the game itself. This is one fan who has been left behind by their corrosive politics. Given the millions and billions professional sports will make anyway (much of it from China), the question is, do they really care?
Maybe, if they called it "social justice" they might. But I don't think love of country qualifies. So carry on, players. And if one day your team becomes government-owned and your fans are too impoverished to afford a ticket, you might think about standing for the national anthem again. But by then, the words will have changed.
Roger Koopman is a Montana Public Service Commissioner completing his second term in office. He previously represented Bozeman for two terms in the state legislature, and operated a recruitment and career placement business for 37 years.