Let me use the word “debate” here in a very broad sense. There has been a debate recently about sportswriters, sports commentators and pro athletes speaking out on social and political issues. The extremes on the two sides of this debate are:
- Sports people should stay in their lane and leave social issues and politics to people who study that for a living.
- Everyone has a right to speak out on whatever issues are important to them and a responsibility to use whatever platform is available to make things better.
The reason you will not read any socio-political stuff here is because I think you came here for a different reason and need not be a captive audience for my personal views on subjects like that. However, from commentaries about sports that I have done over the years, any long-term reader knows by now that I think politically correct speech is useless silliness. And that is why I wonder how ESPN – the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports – got itself caught up in an extremely silly action that boils down to politically correct speech. I am sure you have read about it already so I will give you the Cliff’s Notes version here:
- ESPN will broadcast the UVa/William and Mary football game in a couple of weeks. The game will be in Charlottesville, VA where there were violent demonstrations/counter-demonstrations only a week or so ago.
- One set of demonstrators was opposed to taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee in the town. The ESPN announcer assigned to the game in Charlottesville is named Robert Lee.
- ESPN decided to move him and his broadcast partner to another game that weekend coming from Youngstown, OH. Then they issued a press release to explain that they made the change and why they did so.
- Here is part of how ESPN explained their decision:
“In that moment, it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”
Excuse me, but the only reason this is a topic of conversation is because you announced that you were doing this!
Yes, they did it because the announcer is named Robert Lee and the statue in Charlottesville that is now controversial is in honor of Robert E. Lee. The fact that announcer Robert Lee is of Asian heritage/extraction and Robert E. Lee most certainly was not seems not to have occurred to the ESPN mavens. The self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports did not advance the argument that sports guys belong in the social issues business.
This was a humongous over-reaction on the part of ESPN in the first place; then ESPN doubled-down and announced to the world that they had made a silly decision. Whatever… For the record:
- Announcer Robert Lee is cool with the decision. HOW-EVAH, [/Stephen A. Smith] imagine the complex outrage that would have emerged if he had played the “race card” here.
- Bob Ley who must be one of the longest-tenured on-air people at ESPN will still be the host of Outside the Lines – – unless they do a story from Charlottesville in the next couple of weeks and then the ESPN mavens will have something else to worry about.
The other big sports news from yesterday was the trade between the Cavaliers and the Celtics. The Cavaliers get Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, a prospect named Ante Zizic and the unprotected first round draft pick from the Brooklyn Nets. That first round pick is the treasure here because the Nets will stink in spades next year and will have loads of ping-pong balls in the hopper for the Draft Lottery. Crowder is a good defensive wing player and Thomas will provide scoring in support of LeBron James. Frankly, I am surprised that the Cavs got as much as this from the Celtics since Kyrie Irving had been publicly demanding a trade.
The trade might help both teams. However, I do not think that this trade moves either the Cavaliers or the Celtics any closer to beating out the golden State Warriors than they were a week ago. The Celtics now have a premier scoring threat; Irving is 25 years old and has already been an All-Star. The Cavaliers add a defensive player on the wing – something they lacked last year – and that first round pick might turn out to be the overall #1 pick next year. Might that top-flight pick entice LeBron James to stay in Cleveland beyond next season? Probably not – – but it will provide Cleveland with a leg up on the rebuilding process if he leaves.
The thing that bothers me about this trade – and makes me wonder if Cleveland is done dealing – is that they also signed Derrick Rose in the offseason. Frankly, I do not see how Rose and Thomas can play to each other’s strengths; it would seem to me that each of them dominates the ball in order to be effective and that would mean that one of them would be less-than-fully-effective if they were on the court together.
Finally, since I started today with commentary about silliness from ESPN, here is a comment from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, about ESPN’s flagship program – SportsCenter.
“The last time I watched ‘SportsCenter’, Keith Olbermann was still in a good mood.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………