I like Gregg Doyel. He’s a sportswriter for the largest newspaper in my state, the Indianapolis Star, and if I’m not mistaken, does some work for CBS Sports. And even though in the perilously left-wing world that is sports media Doyel is a mere happy conformist, I still find much of his sports writing to be creative, pointed, and entertaining. But he just can’t get out of his own way whenever this national anthem protest stuff comes up.
And thanks to Doyel’s hometown WNBA team, the Indiana Fever, it came up again. And like clockwork, there was Doyel way out in front of his skis, writing:
In a startling move for any professional sports organization, much less one playing to half-empty arenas, the WNBA issued a memo to its teams “suspending the national anthem protocol” and allowing players to do as they see fit.
The Fever saw fit not to kneel, but to show unity. They interlocked arms with the Minnesota Lynx on Friday, and again Sunday with the Mystics. This was courage.
Huh? First of all, to say that the WNBA is “playing to half-empty arenas” is extraordinarily generous. Secondly, does Doyel not realize that the whole point of the national anthem played before ballgames is to honor America by “showing our unity?” Prior to competition and rivalry, the anthem serves as a fitting reminder of the bigger picture; it is representative of the bond of Americanism that connects us all, despite our differing perspectives, loyalties, and viewpoints. Those disrupting or distracting from that moment are not “showing unity” then; they are by definition opposing and challenging it.
Now you can agree with their disruption and distraction, as Doyel and many of his fellow sports writers apparently do, but then don’t attempt to shroud what it is or pretend it’s something it’s not.
Finally, while there’s no doubt that a group of players interlocking arms at a game that hardly anyone is there to see gave the participants a sense of self-importance and solidarity with one another, to call it courage strains credulity to the point of absurdity.
As did Doyel’s divisive and unhelpful conclusion:
We see what we want. African-Americans like Kaepernick and Malcolm Jenkins, they see a country where a white baby and black baby are born into vastly different worlds. White Americans…? They don’t want to see that. So they move the goalposts to a spot that allows them to view the Fever’s stance from other vantage points.
I’m not a big fan of the “just stick to ballgames” argument leveled at sports journalists whenever they opine on politics, despite the overwhelming left-wing bias of the group. I think that reporters, like anyone, have the right to hold and express opinions that may be completely different than mine. But I do think it’s fair to expect at least a modicum of sophistication in their arguments.
Doyel’s tragic oversimplification of this issue – to the point where he seems to be entertaining some bizarre “good white, bad white” routine – is unhelpful at best, counterproductive at worst. Many white people recognize that white babies and black babies are indeed often born into two vastly different worlds in America. I know I do. But I vehemently dispute the narrative that men like Doyel perpetuate which suggests that reality is due to institutionalized racism.
Does racism exist? Of course it does. Simply look at the pathetic display of children pretending to be men in Charlottesville a couple weeks ago for proof. But keep in mind that other than the news media, nobody pays any attention to David Duke. He’s become marginalized, ostracized, and ignored by a country that doesn’t think like him and doesn’t want to think like him. In fact, if it weren’t for reporters and journalists seeking out Duke’s opinion for some reason, no one would ever hear from him because his sphere of influence is so small. And that’s just how it should be.
Racism has not caused the problems in the inner cities. Racism is not the source of fatherlessness and destruction of the nuclear family in black communities. Racism is not to blame for the fact that more blacks are killed in 6 months due to black-on-black homicide than were lynched in the 80 years between the Civil War and Civil Rights eras. Racism is not the reason predominantly black schools are consumed with an appalling climate of fear, where violence against administrators, teachers, and other students is the norm.
These are the devastating problems for which we need a renewed sense of unity and purpose to address in the black community.
These are the causes that need celebrity endorsement, media attention, and athlete solidarity.
These are the issues that should be provoking privileged sports stars on teams like the Indiana Fever to interlock arms and confront.
And Gregg, these are the commentaries we desperately need our sports writers to address with conviction and courage.