Free Speech, Free Markets & Professional Sports
For the most part, people who tune in or buy tickets to professional team sporting events just want to watch games. But, doing either has become nearly impossible without encountering race-based virtue-signaling.
Most fans have never played the games they enjoy, at least not at an elite level, so people watch sports for entertainment, as relief from the ordinariness of work, family responsibilities and, especially, from the invasion of politics into nearly every other facet of American life.
But, now, add sports entertainment to the list of things left-liberals are ruining.
On Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday, some NFL players reminded America – again – that there is nothing more brainlessly offensive, no purer form of racism than assuming entire groups of people to be “victims” or “racists” based solely on their skin colors.
By encouraging ultimately-meaningless on-field “racial justice” gestures, professional sports enterprises whose athletes, coaches, even team owners “take a knee” during America’s national anthem, play “alternative” anthems, and/or display racialist slogans have turned sports contests into political spectacles and staked out foolish positions in the left-liberal war on American culture.
As public figures, professional athletes have many opportunities for self-expression, so gratuitous, accusatory pre-game virtue-signaling by pampered, oversized, undereducated, generously-compensated jocks is received by guiltless fans as obnoxious in-your-face personal insults and deliberate acts of disrespect for America and the regular people who build, move, feed, sustain and protect it.
But, “victimhood” has assumed a central role in left-wing political culture and discourse. In order for some groups to be victims, others, innocents included, must be branded “oppressors.”
The “victim” phenomenon is a political tactic employed by left-liberals whose ambitions depend upon everyone accepting “oppression” as axiomatic. To generate fear – and political influence disproportionate to their numbers – left-liberals have weaponized some of the worst slanders in polite society: “white supremacist,” “fascist,” “xenophobe,” “racist,” among others.
However, most Americans are none of those things.
Conservatives are common targets, but liberal pieties don’t exempt white progressives from the same slanders, so conventional liberals’ fear of branding has allowed divisive race-based politics to infect their party – and, now, professional sports.
Ironically, black sports columnist Jason Whitlock, a critic of professional athletes’ social posturing, observed that sports once served as a “powerful racial unifier.”
Jesse Owens’ victories in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Joe Louis’ 1938 first-round knockout of German heavyweight Max Schmeling “punctured Hitler’s Aryan supremacy, unified black and white Americans in celebration, and established Owens and Lewis as this country’s first black national heroes.”
Owens and Lewis inspired Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson to integrate Major League Baseball a decade later, which, in turn, added impetus to the Civil Rights Movement.
The current race-based sports drama may have its roots in left-liberal politics, but market forces will determine its future.
Elite sports teams are skills-based meritocracies, so there are no “victims” on professional rosters. For many fans, offensive on-field lectures and displays alleging “systemic racism” from wealthy, privileged, pampered, elite athletes isn’t worth the price of admission or the time to view them.
Most venues are fan-limited by state authoritarians’ Chinese flu restrictions, so ticket sales are negligible or nonexistent everywhere. But, every virtue-signaling professional sport has experienced plummeting ratings, too, in some cases record lows. Viewership of the once-popular NBA finals dropped seventy percent this year; the NFL’s numbers are down across the board; and Major League Baseball’s per game viewership also declined.
That’s how markets work.
Labeling the nation – and people – that enriched you as “systemically racist” is a beef-witted marketing blunder. Investors who fail to learn or ignore powerful market forces risk losses.
On-field posturing self-inflicted economic damage that deep discounts on team logo merchandise cannot mitigate or rehabilitate – plus alienating customers also hurt the ancillary small, including minority-owned businesses that depend upon robust sports markets.
Professional sports are fully-racially-integrated meritocracies. In fact, most don’t even “look like America,” an “obligation” left-liberals demand of nearly every other institution. If sports did, every team roster would be more than sixty percent white, roughly eighteen percent Hispanic, thirteen-point-something percent black, and five percent Asian.
If athletes, owners and league management were more market-savvy, they’d do the math, rethink lecturing innocent fans about “victimization,” “white supremacy” and “systemic racism,” then return to just keeping score on games.
If they want their markets back, they will – they must.