The Olympic Games, which begin this week, is an exhibition of the sportsmanship, teamwork, and the competitive spirit that make sports so enjoyable. But for many in the media, sports is just another excuse to engage in divisive political commentary. The sports media transform an apolitical past-time into a forum for their own politics.
Progressives have actively attempted to remake the Olympics into a celebration of their own political ideals. From calls to make the summer Games “a forum for the promotion of LGBT rights,” to criticism of the International Olympic Committee as “the 1 percent of the 1 percent,” lefties care less about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat than using the world’s biggest sporting event to pound for their pet causes.
But liberal politics have increasingly invaded the world. ESPN’s web site has long featured commentary advancing the gay agenda. Several commentators have publicly expressed a desire to inflict violence on conservative politicians, without receiving any reprimand from their supervisors. ESPN-affiliated radio hosts laughed at former boxer Mike Tyson joking about former basketball player Dennis Rodman having rough sex with Sarah Palin, “pushing her guts into the back of her head.” ESPN analyst Kenny Mayne tweeted that he “almost rammed car with palin bumper sticker. with intent.. held up..coulda been kids in car..” TNT commentator Charles Barkley called out Mitt Romney on-air during a playoff basketball game: “we’re going to beat you like a drum in November.”
Sports media outlets covering political figures also reveal their liberal politics. Obama has been invited on ESPN to pick college basketball brackets. Media outlets bash conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh with ties to the sports world, while ignoring liberals such as Bill Maher.
A few writers have even called for a ban on the game of American college football for being too violent and a hindrance to scholastic accomplishment because it “has no academic purpose.”
The sports media has clearly taken a position on the left of the political field.
Higher, Faster, More Liberal
During the Olympics, differences between nations (ideally) are temporarily set aside in a worldwide celebration of sportsmanship, self-discipline, and national pride. However, some liberals have sought to inject political partisanship into the Olympics, hijacking the Games for the sake of their progressive agenda.
British lawyer Mark Stephens wrote an article in the British paper Guardian brazenly titled “Let’s Make LGBT Rights the Centerpiece of 2012. The Associated Press picked up Stephen’s rant, in which he declared “It is entirely appropriate for the Olympics to be the forum for the promotion of LGBT rights” and “I implore you to ban countries where homosexuality is criminalised from competing in the Olympics.”
Media outlets discussing the Olympics appealed to more prurient interests as well. ESPN published a graphic profile piece exploring the sex lives of Olympians during and after the games, a piece which outlets such as the Daily Beast, Entertainment Weekly, and the Huffington Post eagerly seized upon. But when Olympic hurdler Lori “Lolo” Jones mentioned that she was a virgin in an interview, she was criticized by several writers and bashed by entertainment site TMZ.
Sex at the Olympics was not the only thing on the media’s minds. Environmental activists raised the specter of a toxic environment harming athletes at the games, finding a willing ear at The Guardian, a left-wing British paper. The Guardian piece quoted even Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates: “Athletes taking part in the Olympics may have to battle with dangerous smog because action by the government and mayor to meet EU air standards has been too slow off the mark.”
Dave Zirin, columnist for the far-left magazine The Nation and Al Jazeera online, as well as host of the Edge of Sports Radio show, has discussed the Olympics from a bitter leftist perspective. Zirin blasted the IOC as the “1 percent of the 1 percent, a global cosmopolitan elite that drips with privilege,” and whined about the “breathtaking audacity of Olympic elites.” He even complained that columnist Brent Musburger wrote a column over 40 years ago, slamming the two American athletes who gave a Black Power salute on the medal stand during the 1968 games.
A Bronx Cheer for Conservatives
But the Olympics is not the only area where liberal politics and sports intersect. Many sports commentators don’t hesitate to display their political rooting interests. (Note that unhinged leftist Keith Olbermann made his name at ESPN.) They have at times even expressed violent impulses towards conservative politicians.
Sports outlets have snickered at attacks on conservative politicians. In a Sept. 2011 interview on ESPN-affiliated radio show “Gridlock,” boxer Mike Tyson disgustingly referenced Joe McGinniss’ unverified accusation that Sarah Palin slept with basketball player Glen Rice: “Glen Rice is a wonderful man. He’s a wonderful guy. You want her to be with somebody like [Dennis] Rodman getting up … in there. Pushing her guts up in the back of her head!”
Tyson’s interviewers laughed uncontrollably. After the Tyson interview, Gridlock radio host Mitch Moss tweeted: “WOW! @miketyson just made his most epic appearance ever with Gridlock! #wombshifter??! Are you serious?! My head hurts from laughing.” Moss was not disciplined by ESPN.
ESPN treated an attack on Barack Obama with a heavier hand. Musician Hank Williams Jr., whose song introduced Monday Night Football for years, compared Obama to Hitler in a “Fox and Friends” interview, claiming that a golf outing between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner “would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” ESPN cut ties with Williams and pulled his song from Monday Night Football.
ESPN’s double standard regarding political commentary extended to its analysts. ESPN journalist and comedian Kenny Mayne tweeted “almost rammed car with palin bumper sticker. with intent.. held up..coulda been kids in car..” Mayne was never suspended for his Palin tweet; he was also never reprimanded for his overt on-air support for Obama. However, ESPN golfing analyst Paul Azinger was reprimanded by the network for tweeting: “Potus has played more golf than me this month. I’ve created more jobs than him this month.”
ESPN was not the only sports network to show pro-left political commentary. During a 2012 NBA playoff broadcast, former basketball star and TNT commentator Charles Barkley taunted Mitt Romney on air, boasting: “we’re going to beat you like a drum in November” and “you’re going down.”
Sports Media Root for Obama, Liberals
Sports media outlets display overt favoritism for known liberals, and outspoken opposition to known conservatives.
In the sports media world, ESPN is Barack Obama’s biggest fan. In 2006, ESPN allowed then-Senator Barack Obama to make a Super Bowl prediction for his hometown Chicago Bears. The network has since fawned over Obama in multiple interviews – most recently in July 2012, when he compared the 1992 Dream Team to the current USA Olympic basketball team. ESPN even allowed Obama to pick his own March Madness college basketball bracket on air, dubbing his picks Barack-etology.
ESPN’s solicitude for Obama is unsurprising – the network is owned by Disney. Disney CEO Robert Iger contributed $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012.
Other media outlets also have noted Obama’s love of sports (New York Times columnist David Brooks (he who decided that Obama’s exquisitely creased pant-leg was qualification enough to be President of the United States) called Obama’s sports devotion “a kind of ESPN masculinity”); and given him ample opportunity to discuss it. 60 Minutes allowed Obama to speak about reforming college football’s BCS system. The MLB network’s Bob Costas interviewed Obama about baseball for over 13 minutes in 2009.
ESPN did speak with President Bush, (the minority owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998), about the state of the game of baseball in 2007. However, Bush was mocked by the left for his ownership of the Texas Rangers on numerous occasions, one writer even claimed that Bush was responsible for the bankruptcy of the team in 2010 – more than 10 years after he sold it. By contrast, little has been made of Obama’s ignorance of the White Sox, the team of which he claimed to be a passionate fan, or his difficulty throwing baseballs.
Politically outspoken owners also face the media’s double standard. When conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh planned to buy football’s St. Louis Rams, the media collectively screamed, complaining that Limbaugh was racist (citing his 2003 remark about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb that “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”), and that he couldn’t run a team with black players.
However, when flagrantly misogynistic left-wing comedian Bill Maher obtained a minority share in the New York Mets, there was no similar media backlash. The Huffington Post even mocked the few conservatives who criticized Maher’s purchase for displaying “the kind of moral indignation they normally reserve for things like taxes, or efforts to remove the Ten Commandments from suburban courtrooms.”
The War on Football
Football is a dangerous sport. Strong, powerful athletes slamming into each other at full speed run the risk of major injury. But athletes know the risks of playing the game, and freely choose whether or not to play. However, some writers on the left ignore the element of personal choice, and call for a ban on the sport of football.
Rush Limbaugh has noted that a ban on football has been on the left’s wish list for years. Efforts to ban football have become more serious as of late. In Feb. 2012, Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier, writing for ESPN’s Grantland (a site exploring the intersection of sports and pop culture),discussed the economic impact of a potential future ban on football, citing the dangers of concussions.
New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who compared football to dogfighting in 2009, has advocated a ban on college football, most recently during a May 2012 debate. Gladwell was joined by H. G. “Buzz” Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, who wrote in a May 8 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: “…college football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned.” (No word on whether Bissinger would also advocate banning fraternities and keg parties.)
Banning sports which athletes freely choose to play smacks more of a nascent nanny state than of concern for player safety. One NFL player observed that risk is “part of the game.” Besides, not everyone wants to play other sports, and enforced physical inactivity creates its own health problems, such as obesity and idleness.
A Skewed Field
Overt political partisanship should have no place on the sports field. Sportscasters should not use airtime to declare that a particular political candidate is “going down,” and no athlete should draw uncontrollable laughter from his interviewer for making a disgusting joke about a conservative politician.
In theory, the sports media recognizes this. ESPN’s own policy on presidential election coveragedeclares: “We should refrain from political editorializing and gratuitous references to the candidates, their campaigns or their political positions.” But ESPN selectively enforces its own rules, ignoring liberals who share their political opinions while punishing conservatives for doing the same.
Sports media figures, by calling for a progressive Olympics and by viciously bashing conservatives, have shown that they are fans of liberalism and will happily listen to President Obama’s sports commentary.