“Stick to sports.”
Every sports journalist or athlete who has ever expressed a political opinion has probably had this insipid phrase thrown their way. It’s become quite a common refrain, particularly after the media took note that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t standing for the national anthem a couple years ago.
Like most snarky retorts it’s not meant to be particularly clever or thoughtful. It’s meant to shut down conversation and put someone in their place.
It’s also bullshit.
Not only is it ridiculous to expect a person, let alone a public figure with a large platform, to solely talk about their profession and nothing else 24/7, it’s also disingenuous because often the person saying “stick to sports” doesn’t mean they don’t want someone talking about politics. They just don’t want someone expressing a political viewpoint opposing their own.
Last week’s decision by the NFL to amend their national anthem policy was not made in an effort to “stick to sports”, or appear nonpartisan, as some have claimed. The decision was explicitly political. They implemented this rule in the hopes it would appeal to the political and social leanings of those they view as their core audience: namely, conservative white people.
Let me get two things out of the way before I go any further.
- Yes, I am aware not all people who are against the protests are white and/or conservative, and that many conservative-leaning white people are fine with or supportive of players protesting. But in general, white conservatives have been much more disapproving of the protests than liberals and people of color.
- This is not a First Amendment issue. Let me repeat that, just so we’re all clear. This is not a First Amendment issue. Private organizations have the right to restrict what their employees say and do during company time. I am well aware of this, so no need to point that out in the comments.