Why do we watch sports?
It’s an outlet, right?
We watch sports to get away from family drama, workplace stress, and the rigors of daily life. After a hard day on the job, you should be able to go home, crack open a Yuengling, and watch the Flyers blow another two-goal lead.
My dad and five uncles are avid football fans. They don’t care about Bob Costas’ political thoughts, but it’s not because of disrespect or disagreement. They just want to watch the game.
If they wanted to hear about politics, they would change the channel or pick up a newspaper. They are moderate, white suburbanites who watch Jim Gardner, read the Pottstown Mercury, and vote for both Democrats and Republicans.
They don’t know much about Facebook or Twitter, so they’re probably unaware of how much political commentary is bleeding into the world of sports and entertainment.
Is it appropriate for sports writers to share personal political opinions on social media? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that question.
But when our followers tell us to “stick to sports,” they’re not trying to suppress our First Amendment rights to political expression. They’re just reminding us of why we’re followed in the first place. We’re followed for our sports knowledge and content. They don’t go to our Twitter page for opinions on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Maybe most of your followers appreciate and agree with your political thoughts. Maybe your outlet has a social media policy that needs to be followed. In a lot of ways, every case here is unique to the individual.
In recent weeks, I had to unfollow two respected Eagles writers. When your content goes from 80 percent football and 20 percent politics, to 80 percent politics and 20 percent football, then maybe it’s time swap the NovaCare Complex for City Hall. Just like my dad and uncles, I’m not averse to political talk, I just choose to get it from people who aren’t NFL writers.
What’s the difference between an athlete and a journalist using their respective platforms to talk about politics? The difference is that we’re supposed to be neutral and objective. Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick aren’t held to the same ethical standards that we are.
There’s a reason that the average American distrusts the media, and that’s because we’re trying to be the story instead of just telling the story.
There’s a fundamental schism in the journalism world regarding all of that. Some people feel like it’s our job to affect change, challenge convention, and take an active role in making the world a better place. Others believe that we’re unbiased observers and story tellers who should let events flow and ebb on their own. In that vein of thought, should Supreme Court justices legislate from the bench, or simply interpret the constitution as legal arbiters?
It’s true that soccer and politics often intersect. When President Trump’s travel ban affects a Muslim player coming to America, that’s a story. When Mexican-American athletes feel disenfranchised over the proposed border wall, that’s a story. When a country is banned from the African Cup of Nations because of government interference, that’s a story.
Those are all good examples of topics that need to be discussed and stories that need to be written.
Retweeting “Milo Yiannopoulos is an asshole!” doesn’t add anything to the conversation. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We can do better than childish ranting and 140-character hot takes.
Most sports writers, especially in Philadelphia, probably lean to the left politically. That’s especially true for soccer writers and soccer fans in general, since we demographically skew younger and more international, with exposure to different types of people and different types of cultures. That’s not to say that the Philadelphia Eagles lack diversity, but they don’t have a Bosnian midfielder or Jamaican goalkeeper on the team. A twenty-something soccer fan is growing up in a different world than my 65 year old uncle, who enjoys football and baseball.
One product of the soccer community trending to the left is that moderate voices are often mistaken as far-right. That results in people incorrectly and irresponsibly adding other community members to a Grover Norquist-style blacklist.
It’s dishonest for soccer Twitter to criticize other people for their beliefs when our fandom and our sport has been under siege for the last 30 years. After decades of people telling us that “soccer sucks,” we’re now going to ostracize our own community members over political differences? We have to be tolerant of other people’s thoughts, or else we’re hypocrites.
At the end of the day, we all have different situations that influence the way we approach non-sports topics on social media. If your editor is cool with political opinions, then go for it. If your readers are fine with it, then great.
I think we need to listen to those readers if they ask us to refrain from political commentary. They’re the ones that click on our stories and watch the advertisements that fund our media outlets, which is how we get paid. Isn’t the customer always right? We need to think about them first and put our own personal agendas on the back burner.
If you have something of substance to say, then be my guest.
If you only have political hot takes, then stick to sports.
Editor’s note: This work was not written or edited by PhillyViews staff. It is an entry as part of our Write for Us contest to give independent writers a platform for their work.