Let’s depoliticize sports

Hear the audio at Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

Introduction

The last year and some change has unleashed a tsunami of political statements during sporting events. George Floyd’s murder led to Black Lives Matter statements on fields and courts, along with myriad other team based slogans decrying racism. The football team formerly known as the Washington Redskins has changed its name, citing racial justice concerns. And now, the San Francisco Giants have gone rainbow clad for Pride Month, which used to be Gay Pride Month, but is now apparently a celebration of just one sin instead of two.

Regardless, whether it was the initial act of Colin Kaepernick staying seated and later kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality or Donald Trump saying he should be “fired” and calling him an SOB, the battle in the trenches is no longer between offense and defense but between progressivism and traditional values and/or patriotism. Many, myself included, have become exhausted of the barrage of virtue signalling and have called for at least a cease fire. Sports are a form of escapism, after all.

But at the same time, politics and sports have provided captivating storylines throughout the years. Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” call from the US hockey team’s defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics was a poignant moment during the height of the Cold War, when the Doomsday Clock read seven minutes to midnight before a nuclear war. The Brooklyn Dodgers signing Jackie Robinson and breaking baseball’s color barrier helped pave the way for the Civil Rights movement 15 years later. Pat Tillman gave up a $3.6 million contract in the NFL to serve in the army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where he would be killed by friendly fire (Or maybe was murdered) in Afghanistan.

A common thread

You may have noticed the common thread running through each set of events. The first list, which features BLM and sexual deviancy celebrations, has a starkly liberal bent to it. Meanwhile, beating the Commies, not being a racist (Despite what the media may tell you), and serving in the military all fall squarely within conservatism, but don’t tell anyone that Tillman was an atheist who had become disillusioned with the American war machine and regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal and that there may have been a military coverup of his killing.

So it’s not a stretch to say that the revulsion toward the more recent on-field political statements is simply the wrong kind of politics for conservatives. To a point, I agree with them. For one, the fact that anyone, much less the sports leagues I follow, would give money to an avowedly Marxist organization like BLM is beyond me. For two, the fact that the Giants expected all of their players and staff to play dressup to appease the LGBT+++ lobby should raise our eyebrows. Were there no protests to be heard internally? But I digress.

Let’s get uncomfortable

I’ve now come to the point in this particular blog where I will be both cheered and jeered by sides who normally do the opposite when I write. Just stick with me. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming in no time.

Now, I understand that it’s typically bad form to wait over 500 words to define terms, but from here on out I will use the Google definition of politics, so we’re all on the same page. It is as follows:

the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.

This seems simple enough, right? If it has to do with governance, it is definitionally political.

So let’s see how consistent we can be.

Military families being reunited at games.

“God Bless America.”

Anything regarding a thin blue line.

Camo and flag based merch and uniforms.

The national anthem.

If your politics skew conservative, did the thought of eradicating those things from professional and major college sports produce a knee jerk reaction strong enough to pull a hamstring? Then you, friend, may have an imbalance in how you define what passes as politics in sports. Like it or not, the military and police are government agents, so literally everything about them is political. And the “Star Spangled Banner” is the song specifically chosen by the federal government in order to provoke a sense of loyalty to the country.

Ergo, if we really want to extract politics from sports, those things have to go too. At best, we can nationally refocus on things that matter significantly more than the temporary experiment in self-government known as the United States of America. At worst, we run the reductio on the left and get sports to a politically neutral position.

I will show you a still more excellent way

Of course, I’m not advocating for hatred of the US or insulting it before sporting events, but we have to be honest that celebrating the fact that we live in the same general vicinity doesn’t cut it. Congratulations, we occupy portions of the same 3.8 million square miles, but that doesn’t mean we share the same core values or worship the same deity.

We also have to be honest that we’re going to use our platforms to talk about what matters most to us. The question isn’t whether a god is honored at a particular event. The question is instead a matter of which god is honored.

I’ll put it bluntly. To celebrate anything or anyone as the highest good or God above all other than Jesus Christ – who was crucified and rose on the third day and sits at the right hand of the Father – is sinful. It is wicked. It is idolatry. It is idolatry whether Ibram X. Kendi’s racist notions of “anti-racism” are touted or whether the American soldier dying for your freedom is conflated with Christ’s wrath-absorbing death on the Cross. Even with July 4 approaching this weekend, celebrating the liberty of the United States from England’s tyranny is abject evil if it stops with being grateful for the Founding Fathers without expressing gratitude to our heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:20).

Call me crazy, but if we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, put in the work, I believe we can see the day when we collectively say, “Sure, America is great and all, but let’s sing about Jesus instead of America before this ballgame.” Jesus is King of the universe (Revelation 19:16) and all authority has been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). You will bow now, or you will bow later (Philippians 2:10-11). To harken back to our definition of political, one could make the case that stating the fact that Jesus is Lord isn’t political, because he already has that power. He’s not struggling with or against anyone.

With that, my proposal to rid sports of all things political, is that the game should be played to the glory of God, with the athletes playing as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). It should not reference whatever “mostly peaceful” protest is occurring, nor should it hop on some bandwagon morality for a pregame ceremony. Instead, every contest, in my ideal world, would begin with a prayer of thanksgiving to the triune God in the name of Jesus Christ, and the song we would rally around would be the Doxology.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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