If it hasn’t been any clearer before, the past few months have shown us that sports, politics, race and gender identity will always be intertwined, no matter how much we want to separate them.
Ignoring how these issues impact each other is no longer an option.
Enter Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn head football coach who just defeated former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session in the Alabama Senate primary runoff on Tuesday.
Tuberville has been endorsed by President Trump, who has been voicing his support for months. Sessions and the President have had beef ever since Sessions served as Attorney General. Trump fired Sessions from his position in 2018 after Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. The two have been in a Twitter fight ever since.
Before his victory, Tuberville was most known for defeating arch-rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl for six consecutive years from 2002-2007. He compiled his success during his 21-year coaching career thanks to the contributions of many Black players.
Oddly, no one seems to be telling Tuberville to “shut up and coach.” Somehow, a man who made a name for himself on football sidelines, and has held no prior political office, isn’t being told to keep out of politics, or stay in his lane.
Also, when Tuberville was coaching Cincinnati in 2013 he settled a fraud lawsuit filed by investors in a hedge fund that he helped run. His business partner pleaded guilty to securities fraud a couple months prior and was sentenced to 10 years and ordered to pay back $2.1M. Tuberville, however, aftering settling, was not charged with any crime.
Now, the former college coach has willfully become a pawn for a man who has called Black Lives Matter “a symbol of hate” and reportedly called his condemnation of white supremacists at Charlottesville in 2017 the “biggest fucking mistake I’ve made.”
In a longtime Republican state, Tuberville simply utilized the most basic campaign strategy possible to defeat Sessions by nearly 20 percentage points. He echoed the problematic views of Trump, he called Sessions “weak” for his recusal, and he played off the cachet of coaching the second-most popular sports team in the state.
Tuberville understood what many people in his base are either too ignorant or too stubborn to believe, that almost nothing in our society stands alone.
His coaching ability allowed him to gain a platform for his political views and his ideologies speak to a large portion of those same individuals around the state who tuned in to almost every Auburn football game when he was on the sidelines from 1999-2008.
Tuberville is proving what we already knew but what the majority of his base won’t acknowledge. There is no such thing as a segmented America that is able to truly prevent it’s different sectors from overlapping.
People inherently value the things that make them feel superior, in Alabama’s case that thing is college football. And for 62.1 percent of the state that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election, so does Donald Trump.
So it’s not surprising that Tuberville was able to garner this level of support from the state of Alabama. He was the perfect candidate for state republicans that wanted a “winner” to combat the “disaster” that Trump chose to be his Attorney General.
Tuberville will now face off against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones for the seat in November’s election. Jones was the first Democratic Senator elected in the state in 25 years after defeating Trump endorsee Roy Moore, who was accused by multiple women of sexual assault when they were just teenagers.
Early polls give Tuberville an edge over Jones. Many are calling Jones the most vulnerable Senate Democrat running this November.
Despite what happens in the upcoming election this fall, Tuberville’s victory on Tuesday highlights the truth that we can’t escape as a society. There is no such thing as a segmented society.
We are not as complex as we think. Actions that take place in one realm will have ramifications in another.
Actually separating sports from politics and culture is impossible in our society, especially when the people screaming it can’t find a way to do it themselves.