There’s been a growing divide among sports writers and readers over the idea that writers should “stick to sports.” In the era of a Donald Trump presidency, with a nation divided, many fans want sports media to be an escape from the constant stream of political divisiveness. And that’s understandable, but not acceptable.
In recent weeks, writers like Dave Zirin of The Nation, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com and Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports have expressed opinions about the current administration — and most have been faced with some sort of backlash.
With the nature of the current political climate, the idea that readers around the country can simply fill their news feeds with just highlights of another Russell Westbrook triple-double is absurd. While it’s clear that many of those upset with sports writers becoming politically active are the ones who have no problem with the current administration, it’s especially important that sports writers use their voices to inform a larger audience.
It’s no secret that a portion of the population strays away from political news, which makes it that much more important for sports writers to integrate politics into their work. While older readers may be set in their beliefs, it’s pertinent for sports writers to inform a younger audience about the political climate, even if those readers don’t necessarily seek out political news.
The issue with the “stick to sports” argument is that sports have always and will always be political. Athletes in recent years — from the country’s top stars like LeBron James or Colin Kaepernick, to the entire Minnesota Lynx roster in the WNBA — have taken stands for causes ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to the recent immigration policy set in place by President Trump. But even before that, athletes like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali paved the way for modern athletes of color.
The convergence of sports and politics also took place in Super Bowl LI, which was hosted in Houston, a city with one of the largest refugee populations in the world and a strong anti-Trump movement. With New England Patriots’ tight-end Martellus Bennett’s comments about his disinterest in going to the White House following a victory and Tom Brady’s supposed support of Trump, athletes on the most prominent stage are able to spread their opinions.
And with the influence sports writers have, they should also be able to.