Politics should stay out of the arena

Politics should stay out of the arena

Derek Raridon, Sports Editor

Picture this, you are at a Las Vegas Golden Knights game against the Colorado Avalanche, one of the Knights’ conference rivals. You go through the gates, get a drink and maybe something to eat, then you start to make your way to your seat. You get to the tunnel for your section, and the security guard at the tunnel asks you “Do you believe in equal rights?”

You respond with the obvious answer of “Of course I do!” and move past them to your seat. Angered, you question why of all places you get a question like that while at a hockey game and sit down in your seat. As you start to get comfortable, your bitter mood is lifted as you hear the Golden Knights introduction song “Le Castle Vania” and you see the players come out of the gate. You are on your feet cheering, relishing the fact that you get to see your team play in person for the first time since the 2019 season. 

Then, the announcer calls for everyone to stand for the national anthem. You see a couple of the players kneeling for it, but this doesn’t bother you. After the anthem is over, you hear the old man a couple seats over yell at the players, calling them horrendous names because of their actions during the anthem. This causes another fan in the next row down to start arguing with the old man, ruining the mood for the entire section.

After a couple minutes of their bickering, you decide you have had enough of this. So, you get up and leave the arena. 

Of course, this exact scenario would never happen, but it does harbor a very pressing issue, one that could do much more harm than good.

The sports world is a sanctuary, a safe space where people of all different backgrounds can come together and support their team while enjoying the company of others. However, the increasing presence of politics in sports is harming this space. And while athletes and other members of the sports community have the right to advocate and protest for what they believe, politics needs to stay out of the sports world for both the fans and the organizations sake.

People in the United States of America are subjected to massive amounts of political and social issue coverage in the country throughout the year from mainstream media (CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, etc). Everyone has a varying tolerance for how much of one thing they can take, and the same idea can be applied to how much one can watch/listen to reports about issues in the mentioned spheres. 

To avoid burnout from this coverage, many look to sports for a break, as 74% of those studied in the March 2021 Statista survey said they were some form of fan (either casual or avid) of at least one sport.

In a study done by Marist Center for Sports Communication, 32% of those surveyed said that they were less likely to tune into a live sports broadcast due to athletes speaking out on political issues. This is only rivaled by the 35% of the surveyed saying that not being able to meet up with others as their reason for not tuning in. Many fans are not viewing to see the athletes furthering their agenda on the playing field, they are there to relax and cheer on their team. And when athletes protest in any form, it ruins the experience for almost a third of the overall fans.

This activism is not only hurting the fan experience, but the organizations in sports such as the NBA. Even though ads are already paid for before the game, when a team has a nationally or even a regionally broadcasted game, the viewers the overall game pulls in helps the organization get even more money on top of revenue they get from ticket and merchandise sales.

However, sports organizations around the world were not able to go to the arenas in person due to the COVID-19 virus. This wound up costing the NBA 10% of their projected revenue during the 19-20 season, and it is estimated to cost the organization almost 40% according to an article by senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN senior writer Zach Lowe. With everything happening with COVID, sports organizations have been relying on the ad and coverage money to carry them to the finish line. But the activism is making it harder to get to that line.

During the 2020 NBA playoffs, fans were treated to the matchup of the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, two of the best western conference teams last year, during the western conference finals. The Lakers were up 2-1 in the series going into game four, and many were ready to watch the “highly anticipated” game. Over the course of the three hour broadcasting time, the game pulled in 4.6 million viewers. To most, this would be impressive, but what if there was a political television show that beat the game’s viewership in just one hour?

The show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” aired on Fox News at the same time as the Lakers/Nuggets game. Across the one hour the show was aired, host Tucker Carlson pulled in over 150 thousand more viewers than the NBA game according to Daniel Payne of JusttheNews. Of course, one could chalk it up to that it was voting season or maybe more people were watching the football game that night between the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with the 32% statistic mentioned before points to the culprit being player activism.

Now, there is a very simple solution to this issue, keep the protests and avocation out of the arena, both in person and on television. The NFL stopped playing the national anthem for most of their games in 2020, which seemed to quell the majority of the debate in that league. Maybe other leagues should follow the NFL’s example and follow suit.

Most of the protesting athlete’s thinking aligns with more left-leaning ideals, supporting things such as the organization Black Lives Matter and the defund the police movement. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have repeatedly shown that they support them as well. So, putting out your ideals in the public sector then just going out to play without protesting in the arena is easy for players such as Lakers star forward LeBron James. A mixture of both of the solutions above would be best, as it curtails problems both the right and the left have been talking about. This mixture needs to be put in place soon, or sports as we know it will just be another political battlefield.