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Some Thoughts About Mixing Politics With Sports

It’s always interesting to hear people say they don’t want politics mixing with sports. The reality is that politics is mixed with sports every single day, and has been for years, without much complaint.

Take, for example, the sports world’s relentless celebration of the military to the near-exclusion of all other sectors of society — a celebration that includes camouflage uniforms, jet flyovers, “veteran of the game” promotions, and more. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, relentlessly celebrating the military in a civilian-run society is an inherently political act. And conflating support for the military with patriotism, which the sports world also makes a habit of, is an even more overtly political act.

Similarly, repeatedly wrapping oneself in the flag (with stars/stripes uniforms, massive unfurled flags, etc.) is an inherently political act. Playing the national anthem before a sporting event (something done nowhere else in the world except the United States and Canada) is an inherently political act. Playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch is an inherently political act.

You may not realize that these are political acts, either because they happen to align with your politics and/or because you’ve simply gotten used to them. To you, they may seem perfectly natural in the day-to-day course of sports. But they happen to project a very specific form of political messaging.

People sometimes respond to this by saying, “The national anthem and things like aren’t politics — they’re patriotism.” But that just proves my point, because the parameters of patriotism (i.e., what does or doesn’t qualify as a patriotic act; where to draw the lines between patriotism, jingoism, and nationalism; the question of whether patriotism is truly patriotic if it’s coerced instead of freely given; and so on) are inherently political. In fact, defining the parameters of patriotism is arguably the single biggest political question that a society deals with on a daily basis.

So if you truly oppose the mixing of sports and politics, I hope you’ll join me in calling for the end of camouflage uniforms, the end of stars/stripes uniforms, and the end of pregame anthems, and so on. That would go a long way toward removing politics from sports.

If you won’t join me in calling for these changes, then you’re not actually opposed to mixing sports and politics at all. You just don’t want sports to be mixed with politics that you disagree with.