There’s a common refrain on social media whenever a sports reporter or personality talks about the election: “Stop talking politics and stick to sports!” Well the candidates are starting to make it pretty tough with the overlap between athletes, sports, and the presidential candidate.
LeBron James and J.R. Smith helped campaign for Hillary Clinton in Ohio over the weekend. LeBron basically runs Ohio anyway so it’s helpful for Hillary in the battleground state. James actually had an op-ed discussing his voting choice in October. James isn’t the only athlete — or former athlete — to publicly endorse a candidate, but his push to get the inner-city vote out for Clinton could be helpful as she trails in current polls.
Even when a specific person isn’t involved, politics are playing a role in swaying voters. A pro Donald Trump ad from super PAC Rebuild America Now discuss how Hillary Clinton supports a name change for the Washington Redskins. It’s a super focused advertisement and will probably resonate with people who were already voting Trump, but it does show the overlap between sports and politics.
Both subjects are often rely on emotional responses. People get emotional about their sports teams. People become emotional in political discussions. Combining them seems natural. For all the talk about staying apolitical, sports have entered in the social/politics realm more often this voting season.
It’s not just campaigning or endorsing. There’s support for Black Lives Matter movement, NBA All-Star game relocation, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protests, Curt Schillings’ rallies and commentary, and the focus on Tom Brady’s Make America Great Again hat in the locker room. It’s no longer an option to stand on the sideline because if a player does refuse to comment the media can make a narrative out of that. Even propositions like San Diego’s tourist tax increase to fund a new football stadium is political.
The election will be over tomorrow — hopefully — but it is doubtful sports and politics will ever be disentangled. Stick to sports? That’s just not possible in most situations, especially during election season.