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Sports and Politics: Forever Intertwined

Thanks to MLB’s decision to move the All Star Game out of Atlanta, due to the voter suppression laws, people are now trying to boycott MLB.

Pirates Opening Day by 316th ESC is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sports and Politics: Forever Intertwined

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Since MLB decided to move the 2021 All Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia, in response to the voter suppression laws the state put in place last month, we’re seeing a lot of the same old story coming from the same old people.

Yep, boycotting professional sports is back, baby! So far we’re only one more sport away from having boycott hashtags for all four of the major sports in the US. We’re so close to Boycott Bingo, you guys. We’re SO CLOSE.

And while this tickles me pink, there’s something I think we need to address as Chads and Kyles get all up in arms over a game that once ended in a tie is moved from a state where historically Voters of Color have been disenfranchised more and more over the last fifty years. And that’s the separation of sports and politics.

This statement can be seen all over the place, not just in the last few days, but over the last few years. Even yesterday a Reddit user commented this on a post about the Braves’ response to MLB’s decision.

“I’m done. I’m done with basketball, football, and baseball. Spending the weekends with kids. Sick of politics in sports.”

And there’s a problem with this statement: it’s ignorant as hell, in more ways than one.

First off, if you’re going to force yourself to hang out with your kids on the weekend, rather than watch sports, I’m going to worry for your children. Go spend time with your kids. That shouldn’t be a punishment for MLB. “Take that Rob Manfred, I’m spending quality time with my family on the weekend, you socialist dunce.”

Secondly, sports and politics have been intertwined for decades. Here are a few examples.

Remember how many gold medals the US won in the 1980 Summer Olympics? They set a US record! They won zero because President Jimmy Carter and over 65 other countries boycotted the games over the Soviet-Afghan War.

Let’s talk about stadiums and schools, shall we?

In 40 of the 50 US states, the highest-paid public employee is a college football coach. That’s right, it’s completely possible that your tax dollars go right into the pocket of a college coach. In Alabama, the Crimson Tide has a budget of $164 million dollars and barely turns a profit every year.

The Tampa Bay Rays have been trying to find a location for their new ballpark for years. But once they found a location, they needed to get approval from the city. There were zoning concerns about the new location, but mainly the Tampa Bay Rays wanted public money to build their stadium.

In fact, over 100 professional sports venues have been paid for with either state bonds or a rise in state taxes.

If you watched the documentary Hoop Dreams or a season of Last Chance U, you’d see a different side of this. You’d see the discrepancy between how private school and public schools value their athletic programs. Who can understand why Chris Webber played at a Chicago private school, whose student body was predominantly white. And you can understand why his Michigan teammate Jalen Rose, who attended a Chicago public school, viewed him as privileged. The private schools had better resources. So the public school kids had to fight harder for the same opportunities.

There are also all of those military contracts that paid professional sports teams with taxpayer dollars. That’s right, the Department of Defense paid professional sports teams and leagues for patriotic displays honoring American soldiers. According to the Washington Post, “NASCAR was the biggest recipient, getting $1,560,000 for fiscal year 2015. Included were personal appearances by Aric Almirola and Richard Petty, as well as 20 Richard Petty Driving Experience ride-alongs.”

And then we can get into the fact that Kelly Loeffler, the former Senator from Georgia, who lost her 2020 race to Senator Raphael Warnock, owned the Atlanta Dream while in office. After her election loss, she sold her stake in the team. That’s probably a good idea considering the entire team backed her opponent.

But that’s a direct connection, so maybe that’s cheating?

So, if politics have always had their place in sports, why is it so obvious now? Perhaps that’s because this is the first time you’ve realized it. For the majority of Twitter eggs spouting off on MLB’s decision, this might be the first time that the intersectionality of politics and sports has come into view. For the rest of us, it’s another reminder that sometimes sports do the right thing.

You see, it’s not that sports and politics have been kept apart. No, it’s about the majority of sports fans who have turned a blind eye to the union. The phrase “keep politics out of sports” is meant to keep the safe haven of the sporting world free of an ugly truth. That truth? That your opinion and way of life is being challenged. “Keep Politics out of Sports” is said by people who get very upset about kneeling during the National Anthem.

The thing you are screaming about is the exact thing you use to maintain your perceived upper hand.

So, while this may feel like the end of days for the wrap-around sunglass twitter avatars, it’s not. Welcome to the world you have been willfully shoving under the rug in the name of keeping something the way it is. Welcome to the world where you cannot hide from the systemic racism that’s been in front of your face this entire time. Considering that the Atlanta All Star Game was set to feature several tributes to the late great Hank Aaron, maybe it’s better the game moved out of Georgia. Because Hank Aaron understood the world where politics and sports blended together better than anyone.

You can boycott MLB all you want, and if that means you voicing the fact that you never cared about people’s rights in the first place, by all means, go for it. You are well within your rights to do so. In the same way that MLB has a right to do what they want with the All Star Game.

Politics and Sports have a long history of being interwoven together. You’re just late to the realization, and you’re mad that it doesn’t suit your opinion.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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