A tale of two leagues


With the sporting calendar reaching an amazing time of year where all major U.S. sports leagues are still competing, the contrast of two leagues saddled with an interesting P.R. problem has been just as fascinating as viewing the actual matchups. Both the NFL and NBA have approached an uptick in social activism from their players with stark differences.

While the efforts by Colin Kaepernick to bring police brutality to the spotlight by kneeling for the national anthem have been met by fierce criticism from fans to the President of the United States, the NBA has offered a more accepting tone of protests. LeBron James and other NBA stars took to the stage at the ESPY award show to advocate for police reform in America and NBA players have continuously been vocal on political current events, efforts that should be noted were pioneered by the players of the WNBA.

While both leagues operate with a majority of African American players, the approach to protests and activism is more indicative of fan base than it is of social justice awareness. The NFL for example has a much older average viewer with an age of 50 compared to 42 of the NBA according to Market Watch data from 2016. The NFL, seeking to cater to the patriotism and conservativism that proliferates their fandom despite a litany of other problems, has black balled Kaepernick out of work and continuously discourages its players from taking stances.

The stick to sports crowd is out in full force, but while surface level action from the NBA seems to indicate progressiveness, it seems to be more strategic business decisions than a policy statement. While both leagues have taken different stances on their issues, it seems that those stances are more bent on appeasing those that consume their products rather than actually moving conversations forward and standing for movements. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has successfully guided the NBA to record setting revenue but issued a command to players in the league that they must stand for the national anthem. This in a time where the star players in the NBA are attacked and uninvited by the President of the United States. Whether or not the NBA stands for justice as much as it claims will be interesting to see. It seems both morally right and wise to take this stance, but those factors don’t generate income. While this time of peak sports content is short lived, it is ample time to measure the national temperature of a number of different leagues and how these business entities are responding to them.

This article first appeared in the Friday, November 10, 2017, Edition of The Echo.