Regular readers here know that I do not hold social justice warriors and virtue signaling in high esteem. It is not that I disagree with the need for advancement in social justice in the US; it is that many social justice warriors take their actions and their pleadings beyond reason. And virtue signaling is shallow and disingenuous. Today, I want to address three sports issues that impinge on both social justice warriors and virtue signaling. What I hope to do is to add a bit of rational thought to the three sports issues that does not seem to be there now.
Let me start with a column in the Washington Post written by Kevin Blackistone. You can find it here and the online headline reads:
“Why the WNBA can’t wait: Kelly Loeffler should get the Donald Sterling boot”
For the record, I read Kevin Blackistone’s columns in the Post regularly and I enjoy them. He is an advocate for social change; but normally, his words are reasoned and rational; in this particular work, I think he went over the edge.
Let me be clear from the outset. I am not someone who is politically or socially aligned with Sen. Loeffler; were I a citizen of Georgia, I would definitely have voted against her in the Senatorial election earlier this month. I have not supported her in the past; I do not support her now. Exclamation Point!
The WNBA players themselves – – specifically including players on her own Atlanta Dream squad – – united to campaign against Ms. Loeffler as is their right, and it is to their credit that they acted on what they perceived to be right. At least some of that political support and activism came as a result of Ms. Loeffler’s continuous support of the unsubstantiated claim that the Presidential election was “rigged” and/or “stolen” notwithstanding the myriad rebuffs of that claim by various levels of the US Federal judiciary.
Ms. Loeffler is a part owner of the WNBA franchise and Kevin Blackistone’s column calls for her to be “booted from the ownership ranks” comparing her to Donald Sterling. I do not read minds, so I do not know if she and Mr. Sterling share similarly rancid views of race and gender, but I do know that there is a big difference between Kelly Loeffler as a franchise owner and Donald Sterling as a franchise owner:
- Donald Sterling’s rancid views of Black people and women were in a position to cost the NBA lots of money/revenue. His unpopular views threatened the pocketbooks of the rest of the owners and the league itself.
- Kelly Loeffler owns part of a WNBA franchise; the revenues and economics of the WNBA are well beyond the decimal points of the NBA which is the parent company of the WNBA. Even if fans boycotted Atlanta Dream games – – every Atlanta game on the WNBA schedule – – the NBA would never notice the difference.
Removing an owner solely for their political/social views and expressions is a path fraught with danger. Removing an owner who threatens the bottom line for the league is a totally different story. This is not a matter for the WNBA or the NBA; this is a matter for the WNBA players and fans.
- If Ms. Loeffler’s views are so toxic, why would any player in the WNBA play for the Atlanta Dream in good conscience?
- If her views are so toxic, should any player in the WNBA on any other team take the court when the opponent is the Atlanta Dream?
That is the meaningful locus of activism that will carry the day – – not a bunch of moguls meeting in secret and pronouncing their decision(s). And just imagine the social justice warriors who normally get their knickers in a knot any time a bunch of men do something “bad” to a woman…
The second issue of this type today is a campaign by the marketing folks at Coors Light to have Tom Flores elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Listen to their exhortations on the TV ads and the strongest point made is that he is the first Latino QB and the first Latino head coach in the NFL – – and therefore why is he not yet in the Hall of Fame. I find that argumentation interesting…
No less a social justice warrior and advocate for equal treatment than Rev Jesse Jackson has routinely pointed to sports as the meritocracy where minorities of all kinds could show their unique skills and expertise to be a winner/champion and there was nothing that recalcitrant majority folks could do about it. So, let me list here Tom Flores accomplishments in the “meritocracy of sports”:
- As a QB, he was mediocre – – maybe just a tad better than that but certainly not “really good”. He had a 9-year career as a player; he started 68 games; his teams were 31-33-4 in those 68 starts. For his career, he threw 93 TDs and 92 INTs.
- Bottom Line: As a QB he is not remotely qualified to be in the Hall of Fame.
- As a coach, he was good-but-not-great. He had as 12-year coaching career going 98-87-0 in those years. However, to his credit, his record in the playoffs was 8-3-0 and he won 2 Super Bowl Championships. One argument against his selection for the Hall of Fame is that every modern era NFL coach in the Hall of fame has won more than 100 regular season games; Flores did not.
- Bottom Line: As a coach I believe he is a stretch to belong in the Hall of Fame and the question boils down to something other than his Latino heritage, “Do 2 Super Bowl rings plus Latino heritage” make up for a 98-87-0 record on the sidelines?”
Frankly, I would not vote to put Flores in the Hall of Fame along with coaches like Shula and Lombardi and Landry and Noll from the modern era. At the same time, I would not be sufficiently upset if the Selection Committee put him in the Hall of Fame to declare that I would never again visit the facility. But I do find it a bit unseemly – and even smarmy – for a beer company to be touting a nominee for the Hall of Fame and for him to have allowed it to happen.
The final issue has its roots in late 2017. The University of Tennessee had had enough of its football coach, Butch Jones, at that point and fired him unceremoniously. The Athletic Director – and presumably some others in the university hierarchy – let it be known that they wanted Greg Schiano to be the next coach at Tennessee. At that point, there was a confluence of special interests. Some folks were against Schiano because he was “not an SEC guy” and others were either genuine social justice warriors or only normal folks who felt an abject need to virtue signal here. That second contingent of protestors were opposed to Schiano because he had been on the same coaching staff at Penn State with Jerry Sandusky. There were no allegations that Schiano had done anything wrong – – let alone that he had also abused young boys in the Penn State showers. It is just that he was there, and all that bad stuff happened and that had to make him a bad guy too.
The combination of protesting factions prevailed and kicked out the Athletic Director – – replacing him with Phil Fulmer the longtime coach at Tennessee who himself had been unceremoniously fired about 10 years prior to all that. Fulmer went out and hired Jeremy Pruitt for the job.
Pruitt was singularly unsuccessful in the position. In three seasons at Tennessee, the Vols record was 16-19 and the conference record was 10-16. It was not the worst coaching record in recent times in Knoxville; Derek Dooley was 16-21 in his three years at Tennessee with a conference record of 5-19. At the same time, Jeremy Pruitt will not cause the Tennessee alums to forget the names of Johnny Majors and/or Doug Dickey as coaches of the Vols.
Just this week, it was announced that Pruitt was “fired for cause” by the university meaning that Tennessee is going to try to avoid paying him the $12.5M buyout contained in his contract. [Aside: I suspect that law firms across the country can smell the “billable hours” here and are looking for ways to get in on that action.] Pruitt is not accused of anything criminal or smarmy; he is accused of sufficiently severe recruiting violations that could bring significant NCAA sanctions down on the school.
So, the question that needs to be asked of the social justice warriors and activists who got their way in 2017 is simple and straightforward:
- “So, how’d that work out for you?”
There is plenty of room in sports and in US society for people and athletes to advocate for social justice and social progress. In fact, the US would not be nearly the country it seeks to be were it not for that open space. However, there is another phenomenon at play here; those people and various organizations often overplay their hand – – the current jargon is they get out too far over their skis. I think at least four things need to be done in this realm:
- Athletes, teams and leagues need to support actively – with words, deeds and money – those endeavors that are aimed at social progress which align with the values of the athletes, teams and leagues.
- Athletes, teams and leagues need to support endeavors aimed at social progress that simultaneously provide material benefits to the organizers/activists – – but they need to make those material benefits clear and acknowledge them.
- Fans – – and media outlets – – need to be wary of pleadings based entirely on race or national origin without extensive supporting evidence that specific injuries have happened.
- Media outlets specifically need to point out and perhaps even oppose social justice warriors and virtue signalers when there is no objective evidence to support their opposition to the target of their wrath.
Finally, one of the images that social justice warriors and virtue signalers like to portray is that they are altruists; they are acting in a way that is not necessarily in their own best interest but is obviously intended to augment the common good. For that reason, let me close with this comment by H.L Mencken regarding altruists and altruism:
“Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………