Sports Opinion: Is the NBA Becoming too Political?

Xera Britt, staff writer

The U.S. sports world seemed to be shaken to its core when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem in protest against the systemic oppression of Black people in America. 2016 was a year of radical change and strife, and when politics entered into this realm of sports entertainment, the people were shocked. 

Fast-forward to 2020, and now both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Major League of Baseball (MLB) display “Black Lives Matter” and other social justice messages across their uniforms. This move, it seems, is receiving the same amount of backlash as Kaepernick’s kneel, and it returns us to the question: are politics and sports compatible?

In the wake of a collection of deaths in the Black community, including that of Minnesota’s own George Floyd and Kentucky’s Breonna Taylor, the NBA and MLB made statements supporting BLM and social justice during their opening games. Players were draped in BLM’s shirts, kneeling during the anthem and even printing the BLM name across basketball courts for all to see. Viewers, it seems, didn’t like this, as reports viewership capping at 4 million on night one and reports it averaging 7.5 million viewers overall. Forbes remarks on the recent Harris Poll- claiming that 38% of their recipients who watch sports turn the channel due to politics. 

Oddly enough, the gaming community has been experiencing a similar dilemma when it comes to politics. Both these areas have always been a source of entertainment, not politics, but does that outlaw them from integrating politics into their runtime? Both mediums present a unique opportunity to increase awareness, and as much as it would be nice to get away from it all, we can’t deny that politics is a part of our daily lives. Video Games have had politics in them for years, though many would protest otherwise. 

Sports should be an even easier process to integrate politics into- no complex storytelling is required! A shirt and a kneel can deliver the point. But, as long as outraged fans drop the viewership of these games, it is likely that politics will remain taboo in the realm of sports. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see all iconography of BLM and social justice thrown out the window come next sports season.