It came as no surprise that when reporting on this year's playoffs to determine which team will be crowned the National Basketball Association champions, MSNBC host Tamron Hall instead focused on two players who are “prominent Democrats” and engage in community events when not on the court.
“Tonight, politics will hit the basketball court with the beginning of the NBA finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Hall noted at the start of the segment. “Stephen Curry is going up against LeBron James, both of whom are prominent Democrats who’ve supported the Obamas in major social media campaigns.”
Before introducing her guest, The Nation‘s sports editor Dave Zirin, she defined the playoffs in awkwardly political terms: “The major primary state of California battling the state holding the GOP convention.”
“Sometimes we do try to stretch things and make a political tie out of things,” Hall said, but “this is not a stretch.”
“This is not a stretch at all,” Zirin agreed. “Both LeBron James and Steph Curry have used their capital through sports as a way to speak out about politics.”
For example, “James has spoken on issues ranging from Black Lives Matter to programs for children to really trying to raise the profile of northeast Ohio and the economic crisis there, to the point of which you wonder if he’s molding his own political future through basketball.”
“And believe it,” he continued. “When you fly into Cleveland, you're basically flying into a LeBron James-based economy.”
“I was just there,” Hall interjected, “We were there for the primary, and you see the impact one person can have, and not just because he's a basketball player, but because he's made an investment in Cleveland.”
“Exactly,” the sports editor stated, and even though Curry “was dragged somewhat,” his comments are “very illustrative.”
“He is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina,” Zirin noted, and speaking out on “the whole issue of Governor (Pat) McCorry's bathroom bill. Curry is allied with a church that has gone under scrutiny for their issues about LGBT (Lesbian, Guy, Bisexual and Transgender) rights.
“And Steph Currie, though, he still stepped up,” the sports editor added.
“What did he say?” Hall asked.
“What he said was that he was against all discrimination,” Zirin responded, and he hoped North Carolina could move forward in a way where nobody was discriminated against.
“No one should be discriminated against,” Curry noted in a statement. “So I treat everyone the way I want to be treated -- fairly, justly and equally. I hope that is we all treat each other.”
“What he said really did have impact, and it meant a lot to a lot of people,” Zirin asserted.
“President Obama has talked about both of these men in the past, and invited them to the White House,” Hall noted, “but it's not time to make a comparison with Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar."
“These are the people who we hold up as athletes who are genuine activists,” she noted, “but for both of these guys on the court tonight, if you could define what you see as their legacy beyond this.”
“You defined LeBron in politics, you have Steph Curry,” who has "a wholesome family” and is “deeply religious,” the sports editor stated.
However, things may turn out “even bigger than politics for both of them because what they have is cultural capital, and in the 21st Century, in a lot of ways, that matters more than politics,” Zirin indicated.
“One wonders if LeBron really did run for governor of Ohio, that would be a demotion relative to his current influence,” he continued.
Regarding Steph Curry, Zirin stated: ”We're still talking about someone who's a couple of years shy of his 30th birthday, and I mean, the world is Steph's oyster. It's going to be whatever he wants to do when this is said and done.”
With less than a minute remaining in the interview, Hall finally asked Zirin which team he thought would win the first game of the championship series.
“Game 1 goes to Cleveland,” he said, “and I like Cleveland in six games. This would be their first title since 1964 as a city.”
“Did you know that in the '50s, Cleveland was known as 'Title Town USA?“ he asked. “That was the city's official nickname, and they've been dry since '64, so let the champaign flow.”
Leave it to MSNBC to find a way to work politics in during a segment that dealt with a series to determine which team will win the league championship. Here's hoping they forget this kind of “reporting” before the baseball season comes to a close later this year.