There are famous intersections in the US such as Hollywood and Vine, Haight and Ashbury, Addison and Clark, 42nd St. and Broadway – – and of course This Way and That Way. Increasingly frequently, we are seeing another intersection these days, the intersection of sports and politics. As much as I might want for sports and politics to exist on different and parallel existential planes such that they would not intersect, they do. So, let me try to comment on a few of those sorts of hotspots this morning.
I will begin with the most outrageous example. As President Trump is casting about looking for someone who is willing to be his Chief of Staff on a permanent basis, someone stepped up and volunteered for the job. Jose Canseco – who previously offered up his services to the President as Chairman of the Federal Reserve – said in a Tweet that he would be happy to take the job on. Moreover, in that Tweet, he said that he already has a “secret reorg plan” in mind. Normally, at this point I would pose the rhetorical question:
- What could possibly go wrong?
I shall refrain from asking that today because I fear there is a metric ton of stuff that could go wrong with that tandem leading the “management” of the White House.
In Phoenix, the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, threatened to move the franchise to Las Vegas or Seattle if the citizenry there does not approve in a referendum several hundreds of millions of dollars for upgrading the arena where the Suns play their home games. There is a touch of irony here in that Seattle lost its NBA team in large part because the citizenry there did not cough up taxpayer dollars to build a new/modern arena about 10 years ago.
In Oakland, the city fathers have filed a lawsuit against the Raiders and the NFL as a whole asserting that the process used by the team and the league to approve the changing venue of the franchise violates the anti-trust laws. Part of a statement from the attorney representing the City of Oakland included this sentence:
“Before a team is ripped from the fabric of a community, there needs to be a valid reason other than simply money.”
With all due respect to the barrister speaking here, he seems to miss a fundamental point. Where the NFL is involved, there is no reason other than money that has any weight in any decision.
Notwithstanding that statement from the attorney representing the city, the lawsuit does not seek to bar the team from leaving. Instead, the suit seeks damages and one basis for the suit is the assertion that the relocation fee paid by the Raiders to the other teams/owners in the league is a de facto bribe designed to get the other owners to approve the relocation. The suit alleges that the Raiders and the other 31 owners have formed an illegal cartel. This is not the first time the Raiders have been involved in a lawsuit related to relocation. When Al Davis took the team from Oakland to LA in the early eighties, it was the Raiders who alleged that the NFL’s rules for approving a franchise move were too severe and restricted competition. The Raiders prevailed in that action; here they appear to be on the other side of the argument.
And in Chapel Hill, NC, many athletes at UNC have signed an open letter opposing the school’s plans to house a statue known as Silent Sam because Silent Sam is a monument to soldiers of the Confederacy and the statue was placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy more than 100 years ago. Protesters have toppled the statue from its base and the university wants to construct a building to house the bronze casting elsewhere on the campus. Athletes from a wide range of sports at the school have joined in the protest against that plan.
Players on the UNC men’s basketball team are part of the group to sign the open letter. That is important because men’s basketball is the most important sport at the school and because coach Roy Williams has backed the move by the players to take a position on the matter. Here is how Coach Williams explained the situation:
“I talked to our guys about it and told them if they feel strongly about it, go right ahead. I think it’s their individual rights and I think they should [express themselves] if they feel strongly about it.”
Many college coaches are characterized as “control freaks”. As often as not, that label is perfectly appropriate. Roy Williams in this case seems to be treating his players as adults who can and should form their own opinions on this matter and then should do whatever their conscience tells them to do. That is hardly the essential behavior of a “control freak”.
So much for the intersection of sports and politics this morning… There is an adage in the newspaper business that the reporter and/or the newspaper is not the story; the reporter and the paper are the story tellers. That is a noble ideal; I would say that it is not universally adhered to in current day journalism. I mention that because the Associated Press has named Chicago Bears’ coach Matt Nagy as the NFL Coach of the Year late last week. I find that interesting on two levels:
- The existence of the award, the announcement of the award and the maintenance of the history of the award seems to make the Associated Press a central part of the story. Ostensibly, the story is about Coach Nagy, but the Associated Press is squarely in the spotlight too.
- This award was announced with 3 games left to play in the NFL regular season. One does not declare the horse leading a race at the quarter pole as the winner nor is the MLB Rookie of the Year announced in the middle of August. Why the hurry? This seems to me to be akin to Time Magazine naming Hillary Clinton as the Person of the Year for 2016 sometime in September. [Ooops… Did I just intersect sports and politics again today?]
Let me be clear. I have no trouble with the selection of Matt Nagy for that honor. If I were part of the voting process, I would have voted for Nagy in first place, Anthony Lynn (Chargers) in second place and Frank Reich (Colts) in third place. I would also have attached a note to my ballot asking why the vote had to be in before the end of the season.
Finally, since I mentioned Secretary Clinton above, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News that includes her:
“Davidson’s football team put up huge numbers, rushing for 789 yards against San Diego – and still lost.
“Hillary Clinton is thinking, ‘Tell me about it’.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………