Conservative politics and professional sports leagues have long been intertwined as bedfellows. However, that attitude has shifted since the Trump era. Now, more Republicans despise the NFL than ever, according to a L.A. Times/SurveyMonkey poll conducted early this year. Despite watching it on Sundays, their changing opinions stem from believing that Roger Goodell and the owners are doing too much for its African-American players, says the poll.
The coinciding player empowerment era interlocked with activism has resulted in the GOP using those diminishing perceptions of “athletes” to manifest a minority villain for their bigoted base. Part of the GOP’s strategy for sowing division is to create an “other” for their voters to train on. The LGBTQ community, women and African-Americans appear to be their new targets. Remarkably, white male athletes never rank highly on that target list — unless they’re the NBA commissioner, who has been asked by insurrectionist lieutenant/Senator Josh Hawley to testify before Congress about the NBA’s business with China.
The GOP’s mantra to NBA players has always been “Shut up and dribble.” Meanwhile, Enes Kanter is Fox News’ newest mouthpiece on how the NBA is so unabashedly capitalist that they’ve turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses taking place in China. The modern Republican Party won’t actually make an effort to help marginalized groups at home, yet will gladly tell Black athletes they aren’t doing enough for the global community and that they should be forced to answer for apathy.
On Wednesday, Tennessee Junior Senator Marsha Blackburn took issue with the NBA’s announcement that it would host a preseason matchup in the United Arab Emirates before the 2022-23 season. Blackburn’s resentment toward the NBA hosting a competition in the UAE refers to the country’s archaic laws against homosexuality.
The NBA doing business with a regime that punishes homosexuality is a bad look, but Blackburn is someone who has fought against the right for same-sex couples to be married. Throwing stones from glass houses is a GOP specialty. The NBA’s UAE turning into the conservative community’s latest obsession is ironic given their laissez-faire attitude toward corporations doing business with totalitarian regimes and their own colleagues cozying up to Russia, before it became politically unpalatable. That energy is only reserved for the NFL and NBA’s uppity negroes. So don’t expect that same pushback for the UFC and WWE, who’ve both hosted events in Saudi Arabia where same-sex activity is illegal, and where women can’t get a passport or travel outside the country without a male’s approval, or marry without the same. The closest I could find was an American Conservative piece supporting the WWE in Saudi Arabia, and a dozen pieces criticizing the NBA for their relationship with China.
Where are their fiery jingoistic takes on PGA stars joining a Saudi golf tour that could challenge the American-run PGA Tour? Daryl Morey’s tweet about Chinese intervention in Hong Kong and Golden State minority owner Chamath Palihapitiya’s comments about the NBA’s apathy for Uyghur Muslims elicited an anger from Republican Senators. Odd they couldn’t muster the same outrage about the mistreatment of Blacks in this country highlighted by the murder of George Floyd by police. However, the irony of two spineless politicians who tolerated Trump, who became best buds with every authoritarian ruler he met, calling out the NBA for kow-towing is rich in irony.
Sportswashing is a pox on this earth, but it’s even galling for some of America’s most powerful political figures to decide they’re going to selectively attack billion dollar corporations for doing so as a baton to use against the Black athletes who are profiting is despicable. The GOP’s obsession with dunking on the NBA is only intensifying, and based on their fixation, they’ll use the NBA as a punching bag to rile up their ravenous base between now and the midterms and beyond.
While Blackburn and her ilk are crying crocodile tears over the NBA’s business in the UAE, they’re chomping at the bit to pass Don’t Say Gay laws in their own states and pushing for the Supreme Court to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Disingenuous bad actors should have their faux self-righteousness attempts to gin up anger against Black athletes for political gain should have their shit sent into the second row.