Tag Archives: sports

Politics and Sports, Peas in a Pod

Pearl River     It’s totally over now.  No way of pretending that sports and politics are not welded at the hip, peas in the same pod anymore.  Of course, this has been true forever, but the cultural and corporate presumption, when it served the interests of power, were to pretend they were separate and totally different.  This allowed sports business to protect a mass consumer and viewer base on one hand, while keeping their thumb on the scale for the interests of owners, which invariably skewed to self-interested entitlement and often archly conservative views.

Think Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, New York Knicks Dolan, or virtually everyone involved with the New England Patriots, if you lost any facilities during the pandemic.  It’s over now because race and union contracts allow players to not only speak their minds, but have the protection to do so.  Professional players are no longer vassals of the owners, sponsors, and networks, so racism in sports where African-American players are a majority like professional basketball and football has erased the rightward political line dictated by the owners.

During the cultural and political wars of the 60s whether civil rights or Vietnam, sports figures were dependable poster boys for the wrong side.  For every Muhammad Ali or Bill Walton, there were thousands of high school, college, and professional coaches pushing the players to keep their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves “for the good of the team.”  Find the lowest common denominator and hold onto it as long as possible.

President Trump is big in the mix here.  He wants to presume that the fan base and his base are the same.  He will never learn and listen, but it is important that this time as he tries to stir up his kneeling controversy, he is encountering aggressive and immediate pushback.  Drew Brees, vaunted New Orleans Saints quarterback, spit out the crow he was eating and had to slap back at Trump trying to use his insensitive and idiotic remark that missed the point about the kneeling protest.  For a change, the spineless lapdog of the billionaire NFL owners, Roger Goodell, also had to admit that he had not been listening and concede that players had the right to protest and that the NFL supported it.  Since Trump is all about inflaming racial division, it is actually important that Brees and Goodell hit his hands with a ruler and told him to finally pay attention in class.

Steph Curry, Lebron James, and a bunch of other big names are clear that police brutality and racism is simply off limits and doesn’t allow silence.  The NFL despite all of the owners’ fulminations, was not able to discipline any players, despite Trump calling for their firing, after their union filed a grievance over the threat.  Stephen Jackson, a former NBA player, has been huge in standing up for his Houston friend, George Floyd, killed by police in Minneapolis.

No matter how powerful the SEC teams are, the days when the politics and culture of sports and the NFL are that of “good ol’ boys” from the South are gone.  It’s been over in the NBA for a while, and now as Drew Brees learned, it’s way over in the NFL.

Sports is not real life, but it’s important in moving the culture. For sports to start pushing politics on race, war, and police brutality so that peoples’ interest is more important than the opinion of power and privilege is actually a big thing.


Soccer Team Trying to Score on Cincinnati

Cincinnati        There must be something about being a billionaire that to really know you’ve made it in the big time you must have to own some kind of major league sports team so you can hang with your brothers, yes, mainly brothers, and say you’re a big leaguer too.  And, if you own a big-league team whether football, basketball, or baseball, and want to really “Jerry Jones” it, you have to build a huge, strapping stadium.  And to really get the respect of your buddy billionaires, you have to be able to sit around the clubhouse with a scotch and brag about how you soaked the suckers and got the taxpayers to carry the weight so you could collect all of the paydays.  Who knew that now applied to major league soccer in the United States as well?

Not many people, but they are finding that out now in Cincinnati thanks to the Futbol Club of Cincinnati, known as FCC locally, and its ownership group led by American Financial Group Inc. co-CEO Carl Lindner III and including Cintas Corp. CEO Scott Farmer, are the big bucks behind the ball.  The Major League of Soccer it turns out is considering expanding their league.  Yes, some of us forget that there is a major league of soccer, but that’s another story for another day.  To get a franchise you have to build or have a stadium that can hold 25 to 30,000 fans.  You also get to pay the league $150 million if you win the franchise and that seems to give the already rich a way to get even richer because it seems they get a share in the royalty of every soccer game televised in the States, including the English Premier League, the real major league of world soccer.

So now that we have the background clearer, the big news is the old story of how cities, meaning the taxpayers, get taken for a ride in building a stadium.  The controversy in Cincinnati, as I heard over and over in one meeting after another while talking to people about the ACORN Home Savers Campaign, is where to put the stadium and the cost of the shakedown.  The owners tout the fact in big letters that they would finance the $200 to $250 million to build the stadium but downplay the fact that they are trying to get tax-increment-financing which would knock off millions and millions year after year.  They had one deal in the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley where the city and county promised them $52 million in infrastructure.  They have another possible site in Kentucky, but I didn’t catch the giveaway there.  Then there is the west side location that they seem to want now that it would require tearing down a public high school stadium, relocating it, and building there.  FCC is playing divide-and-conquer on a community benefits agreement.  The school district wants taxes, and FCC is trying to nickel and dime them, as far as anyone knows.

That’s part of the problem.  No one really knows the real deal.  They have tried to roll the public authorities.  There is no transparency, and they are trying to fast track everything by the end of March, claiming that the MLS is going to decide whether Cincinnati or some other city wins an expansion team.

Unless something changes, this is not a game Cincinnati is going to win, unless they get on the field and protect the real goal of the city and citizens more aggressively.