Shorter WashPost Sports Page: Why Is NCAA Soft On the Bigots in Houston?!

March 29th, 2016 10:23 PM

All too often, sports pages in major American newspapers are given over to boosterism for liberal activism. In perhaps the latest example, the Washington Post today dutifully furthered complaints by lefties about how the NCAA was "silent" on the "bathroom bill" issue in Houston, Texas – host city for this weekend's men's NCAA Final Four games.

Rather than weigh in on the matter before voters went to the polls in November on whether to repeal or maintain a city ordinance allowing transgender individuals to use restrooms of their preferred gender, the collegiate sport governing body sat it out, grouse liberal activists.

Here's how Will Hobson opened his 37-paragraph March 29 Sports section front-pager, "After lauded opposition to Indiana law, NCAA silent in Houston"* (emphases mine): 

When the men’s basketball Final Four tipped off last April in Indianapolis, NCAA President Mark Emmert and his colleagues were enjoying something they rarely get: widespread praise.

Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law had sparked nationwide controversy. The NCAA was one of the first major sports organizations to criticize the law, which some characterized as a thinly veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against gay and transgender people. When lawmakers heeded the calls for change and amended the law, gay and transgender rights groups applauded Emmert and the NCAA for “bold leadership.”

This year’s men’s Final Four tips off Saturday in Houston, the largest city in the United States with no law protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination. Last November, Houston’s voters rejected an equal-rights ordinance after a conservative campaign claimed the law permitted male sexual predators to infiltrate women’s bathrooms.

Before that vote, civic leaders in Houston had asked the NCAA to do what it had done months before in Indiana, and what it has done again recently amid similar controversies in Georgia and North Carolina: join a chorus of national corporations and organizations speaking out in a legal dispute involving gay and transgender rights. The NCAA declined the request, according to several people involved with the discussion. NCAA vice president Oliver Luck told a Houston official the NCAA wouldn’t take a position before the vote. The NCAA disputes this account, but it declined to make Emmert or Luck available for an interview.

In the days after November’s vote, the NCAA expressed concern about the outcome, and implied the 2016 Final Four could be Houston’s last until the equal-rights law is restored. As the NCAA’s marquee event comes to town this week, some Houston leaders are still mystified at the organization’s reluctance to take that stance before the vote, when it actually could have had an impact.

“We expected the NCAA — because in many ways it’s a national business organization, like the many others that supported this law — we expected them to make some kind of statement before the vote. But they declined to even talk to us about it,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “It’s unfortunate. . . . I wish they would’ve gotten out in front on this one.”

You'll notice the standard tricks of the trade like scare quotes and loaded language. Opponents of the "equal-rights" ordinance were painted as fearmongering hucksters who portrayed the bill as empowering "male sexual predators to infiltrate women’s bathrooms" while  noble "civic leaders" were simply hoping to find responsible corporate citizens like the NCAA to join the fight for LGBT justice.

Of course, perhaps the explanation for the NCAA sitting on the sidelines is rather very simple: unlike taking on state legislators or governors – professional politicians – extorting average Joes and Janes with the threat of a boycott for voting a certain way at the ballot box comes off – and rightly so – very badly. 

Leaving all that aside, there's also the placement of the story: the front page of the Sports section. The subject matter at hand is political-activism and the role of major corporations in pressuring local and state authorities on government policy.

Shouldn't the sports page be a refuge from politics, particularly issue-advocacy politics? 

*the online version headline is different: "As gay rights battle brewed in Houston, NCAA stayed on the sideline."