Editorial: Sports leagues should stay out of politics

Published 9:23 am Thursday, August 5, 2021

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I’ve enjoyed watching the sports television coverage of Hank Aaron’s accomplishments. There were specials all weekend on the Atlanta Braves’ network.

I’ll not go into – again – why everything Atlanta Braves is important to me. I’ll not go into why Hank Aaron was a true hero of mine – in more ways than one.

There was also a special on Aaron prior to the Major League Baseball all-star game in Colorado last month. That’s right, Colorado.

While Aaron is important to all of baseball and the country, that special should have been shown from Atlanta – not Denver “Rocky Mountain High” Colorado.

But Major League Baseball – like way too many other sports and entertainment establishments – thrust itself into politics – a place it doesn’t belong and a place where if it continues, will only diminish the number of followers.

That all-star game had been scheduled to be played in Atlanta. The city – and the Braves – had been working on it for years, including an appropriate tribute to perhaps baseball’s best player ever.

But sometime earlier this year, the Georgia Legislature decided to require photo identifications in order to vote. Major League Baseball went into a tizzy, trying to get the decision reversed, which thankfully they couldn’t do. MLB, with the support of the players’ union, decided to believe without enough study what it was hearing from the political left – who called it a racist decision.

The left said the decision was one to keep people of color from voting. While that may be a consequence of a Voter ID law, it is not the intent. The Republican legislature had only one goal, and it wasn’t their stated reason to make for more fair elections. They knew that such a law would mean fewer Democrats going to the polls – many of them people of color.

I’m not bashing Republicans here. Democrats do the same thing. They’re on a push to get the District of Columbia to be recognized as a state so they can be represented in Congress. They say it’s because these people deserve the same rights as the rest of us. That may be true, but the real reason is they know the District of Columbia is overwhelmingly Democrat, and therefore could add to the number and percentage of Democrats in Congress.

It’s difficult to answer the question as to why MLB is getting more involved in politics. Baseball has been a diverse sport for longer than any other. Players come from all walks of life;  there are players now from 20 countries. It is working toward making baseball an option for kids in inner cities. It is working on getting more people of color into management positions. They did all of this for the right reasons – without delving into local politics.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. And to take away an important event from a franchise and city makes it even worse. The Braves didn’t adopt the Voter ID law. Atlanta didn’t adopt the Voter ID law.

Athletes and entertainers are just like us. They have opinions. They vote. Good for them. Do we care how they vote? Maybe, but we shouldn’t put too much weight into their opinions.

But it is different for corporations like Major League Baseball. They want to be inclusive. I support that. But being inclusive doesn’t mean you have to overreact every time a political decision is made. Worry about the designated hitter, for goodness sake, not who’s going to vote in Georgia.

Too many companies are bowing to political pressure. Just quit it.

Do we really care how our favorite baseball player votes? I hope not. If you do, you’re part of the problem.

Do we really care the political party of our favorite singers? I hope not. If you do, you’re part of the problem.

We’re a diverse nation full of diverse people. Sure, we can have political disagreements, but that shouldn’t change which team we support or which television shows we watch.

– Mike Barnhardt