The Boston Globe – Sports and politics are both cutthroat competitive. They both revere history. They both inspire wall-to-wall coverage and hyperbolizing pundits. They both require energizing bases — fan and voter. In both, logic and viewpoint are often dictated by loyalty to a particular team.
Athletes have a right to express their political opinions and participate in the process. However, we shouldn’t assume their stances are more noble or informed.
Just because (LeBron) James is a franchise player that doesn’t mean he is qualified to tell people what to do with their franchise.
But the athlete who is willing to put himself or herself out there with a view that could alienate some of their fans and upset their brands has my respect. That includes athletes whose beliefs and opinions may not be ones I share.
While the above article was written in a world where Donald Trump was simply the Republican candidate for the Presidency, Chris Gasper of The Boston Globe perfectly explains why it is important for athletes to not shy away from their beliefs, and throughout the article Gasper draws parallels between sports and politics.
In a way, this is a continuation of my post regarding Tom Brady and his line stepping when it came to his inability to be public about how he supported his “good friend” Donald Trump.
It is understandable why an athlete that is on the edge of super-stardom might be less willing to be vocal about their opinions regarding real issues., especially on politics. While it might not be fair to discredit an athlete for remaining quiet, it is important to revere those who do not allow themselves to be simply another cog in the machine.
Gasper gives the example of Curt Schilling, who’s opinions are less than relatable for me. However, I agree with Gasper in the sense that while you can question his stance on certain issues, you can’t question his passion and willingness to risk his career in order for his voice to be heard. Silly, stupid, absurd. These are all words you can use to describe an athlete that you feel doesn’t see through the same lens as you. But the discussion they provide in the public sphere is more important than the actual hot takes.
For my source, I have chosen to focus on Bill Simmons’sThe Ringer. First I will talk about the now defunct Grantland, Bill Simmons’s old ESPN offshoot. Then I will go a little bit into his breakup with ESPN which lead to the creation of The Ringer.
Grantland was Simmons’s brainchild. While he was at ESPN he had developed into their biggest star, and the network gave him complete creative control over his own ESPN affiliated site. As “The Sports Guy”, Simmons created a persona for himself that ushered in a new era of web journalism.
With Grantland he created a pop culture site that dabbled in all aspects including sports, politics, music, movies, and television. It was created in the mold of Simmons and the stable of contributors that he was able to collect provided readers like me a consistent source of entertainment. They had Wesley Morris, Katie Baker, Zach Lowe, Bill Barnwell, Bryan Curtis, Chuck Klosterman and Charles P. Pierce just to name a few. Basically, Simmons had no shortage of talented writers waiting to work with him. That’s when everything went sour.
Simmons had a messy breakup with ESPN and when it became official it appeared that Grantland would live on without him. However, months after the breakup ESPN CEO John Skipper announced that Grantland would be discontinued. When Simmons’s contract officially expired, along with his gag order, he came out and announced that he was starting a new venture. Thus, The Ringer was born. It quickly became Grantland 2.0.
The Ringer does a lot of things right. Simmons might be the best there is at identifying talent. Just like Grantland there is a deep cast of characters, a mix of old and new faces. When Skipper stopped Grantland he made a point to mention that it was operating at a loss, explaining that the quality of content wasn’t converting to profits. It is interesting to note that all of The Ringer’s content is sponsored, with Miller Lite being tagged right at the header. The images that accompany each article are created in-house. Each visit to the site is a new experience and there is a constant rotation of stories. Overall, the site is very lighthearted and easy to consume. Each article is accompanied by a projected reading time along with notes in the margins on the “highlights” of the article. The one downfall of the site to me is it seems that they have taken a focus on shorter “blog” style posts that are easy to consume.