Coulda Fooled the World! SI's Feldman Complains Media Again 'Sticking to Sports!'

September 8th, 2018 9:00 AM

Against the backdrop of Nike rolling out its highly controversial new Colin Kaepernick "Just Do It" campaign during last night's NFL season opener, Sports Illustrated's Jacob Feldman has declared victory for fans urging media to "stick to sports." Gosh, he could have fooled the world with such a wild claim!

Feldman wrote that "Kaepernick’s narration of a 90-second Nike ad during the third quarter ranked among the night’s most memorable moments" of Thursday's Atlanta-Philadelphia game. Other than that, he argues it's clear that sports media are steering clear of social justice and political issues.:

"What made the Kaepernick ad campaign so shocking this week—inspiring some, appalling others—is that on the biggest stages of the media world, 'stick to sports' has been winning. Where the multi-billion-dollar apparel company has taken a calculated risk, sports broadcasters have opted to avoid controversy. It’s not about politics, but economics. In a precarious media environment, everyone from FOX pregame host Michael Strahan to ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro has voiced a strategy that starkly contrasts Nike’s: We’re focusing on the games."

Apparently many in sports media haven't received Feldman's memo. Check out the video of ESPN's Molly Qerim (photo above) confirming that the era of "stick to sports is officially over." And Feldman's SI teammate Michael McKnight is also unenlightened. In fact sports media still seem pretty determined to stray outside the lines of sports, agreeing with protesters on police brutality, leading cheers for Kaepernick, shilling for global warming, open borders and the LGBT agenda. But pay no attention to the social justice agendas behind the curtain because Feldman knows otherwise.

NBC showed the anthem Thursday night, but "the camera generally stayed away from socially active Eagles star Michael Bennett (who sat down before the end of the song), and there was no discussion of Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins’s decision to no longer demonstrate during the performance," Feldman writes.

The SI writer also pointed out how NBC and ESPN are parting ways with Bob Costas and Jemele Hill, respectively, "two of their most outspoken personalities when it comes to social issues."

In recent years, Feldman, notes, sports reporters had won four Peabody Awards — "for 'powerful, enlightening' stories — about topics including environmentalism, race relations, and harassment." Feldman is wondering where those "Edward R. Murrow" sports reporters have gone, and if that "broad journalistic ambition ... disappears entirely, is the message that sports should be watched with blinders on?"

It was only last year when sports writers were insistent that keeping sports apolitical is outdated. ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown host Sam Ponder had said: “We do like to stick to sports around here. That’s why we all got into this …. But before we do that, we’ve got to talk about the biggest news in the NFL today, and it is inherently political.” That ESPN crew then focused on President Donald Trump's SOB comments for 22 minutes.

When Trump "entered the tent," Feldman wrote, "Conversations that had been implicitly political became overtly so. Fans went from subdividing by team affiliation to sorting by political identity. And, most notably, some walked out. The percentage of Republicans not following the NFL closely has shot up 250 percent since 2014, from 16 to 39 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal."

Feldman would not be surprised if an athlete complained about media not doing enough to amplify social justice concerns this year. Though no one will take issue with HBO because it's giving LeBron James a "seemingly unfettered platform on The Shop."

So the good old days of not sticking to sports are over, Feldman says. Broadcasters are foolishly paying attention to ratings and viewership. They'll stick to sports and they'll hope you watch. Or so Feldman says.