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View from Above: It's a volatile mix, sports and politics

Mixing sports with politics is always a dicey proposition...and JR says nitwits know no seasonal boundaries...

Do sports and politics mix? Perhaps the better question is, can sports and politics ever mix?  

Sure they can, if you're one who can enjoy or tolerate multi-car crashes, mile-long traffic jams through midtown, smashing your fingers with a hammer or having your teeth pulled without first having a shot of Novocain.  

Invariably, because sports and politics are both so polarizing to the populace at large with no middle ground between love and hate – especially considering the present-day overdosing on social media with a side of "alternate facts" to go along – it's a painful road to travel these days when you put the two topics together.  There simply is little chance for sports to remain "just sports."

And politics?  Let's not go there, either.

Sports have been tied to politics at least since the 1940's, when baseball's color barrier was finally broken down by Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Branch Rickey, as he hired Jackie Robinson to play for 'dem Bums.'  You can probably go even further back than this particularly poignant moment in time – how about when sprinter Jesse Owens stole the Olympic spotlight in 1936 from Adolf Hitler's Germany?

Two sports moments in time that signaled great change on our planet, and in our country, both politically challenged and motivated.  There are others, of course.  But these seminal moments in time that bring about change?  You're always going to find those who believe change should have happened sooner, and others who believe change should never have happened at all.  

Politically, it's tough to win when so many also lose.  Athletically?  It's just as tough, if not tougher to win, when mixed with politics.  It's why this current era of political activism among some athletes is so volatile, and why so many in the sports world have declined to "take a stand" for so long.  


In the end, everyone wants to be loved.  Or at least liked and appreciated for their skills.  When their skulls get in the way, it's often a different story.

The Patriots certainly know what it's like to be on the wrong side of the political process, having the misfortune of off-field controversy intertwined with success and Super Bowl titles on it.  So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise there would be controversy surrounding post-Super Bowl celebrations at the White House – as polarizing a place as there may be in this country today.

Six players have publicly said they don't want to go to the White House for any celebration?  

Big deal.  Or at least, it shouldn't be.

Patriots' owner Robert Kraft has accurately pointed out that in each of the previous four post-Super Bowl Washington visits, anywhere from 20 to 30 players have chosen not to attend for various reasons.  Were they all politically motivated reasons?  Tough to say, but you'd have to think it unlikely.

Yet, because some athletes (including some Patriots' players) choose to let their true feelings be known in the present day politically-charged environment, we react one way or the other – with very little middle ground.  They are, of course, entitled to their feelings and their personal beliefs.

But we shouldn't care.  Nope, not one bit.

Because opinions are what make the "world go 'round."  Because differing opinions are healthy, good for the "big picture," and because differing opinions encourage freedom of speech and ideas.  It's the American Way, after all.  We won't agree on everything, of course.  But we can agree to disagree.  

We should be able to appreciate a difference of opinion on a topic, like politics, and still appreciate what an athlete can bring to his or her sport without having to tear them down because their politics don't align with our own.

I, for one, would go to the White House if given the opportunity.  It's all about having respect for the office, respect for our government and our democratic way of life, and having respect for the people who are trying to make life better for all of us – even if we don't see eye-to-eye on the way toward reaching that goal.  

Don't like what you see?  Great.  Our system allows us to change things every four years.

As I've opined previously, perhaps the time has come to somehow try and separate sports from politics once again?  We could begin to smooth over our hurt feelings and differences of opinion if we simply eliminated White House visits altogether and stop using them as political grandstands.  

But in doing this, we may also inadvertently discourage freedom of speech and limit the exchange of ideas and beliefs in a very public forum.  Is that what we're really after here?

Smoothing things over just so we can all get along doesn't sound terribly democratic to me.   The process isn't perfect, even if it has had nearly 250 years to progress.  No one ever said sports and politics had to be a smooth mix.  

Nitwits behaving badly


Some NFL players equate the off season with the silly season, I suppose.

Maybe it's because they're not focused on playing the next game, or improving at the next practice. Maybe having too much time on their hands isn't a good thing?  Whatever the reason, the off season has turned into the silly season – or stupid season – pretty quickly this year.

Former Patriot defensive back Darrelle Revis has found himself in a pickle of late, it seems.  Revis was arraigned last week on five criminal charges stemming from an alleged physical altercation in Pittsburgh.  While the NFL says it is looking into the matter, it stands to reason Revis – who is under contract to the New York Jets but coming off of a miserable season – could find himself looking for football work as a result of the incident.   

He is, however, owed $6 million in guaranteed money for 2017, so Revis' release is anything but certain right now.

And for a guy who has had his problems remaining employed in the NFL, much less remaining relevant, RB Trent Richardson certainly seems to be going about his resurrection the wrong way.  Richardson was jailed last week and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence – a crime which has certainly been one of the NFL's dirty little secrets.   

Except that it's not so little.  Richardson's latest arrest is at the top of a list of 30 NFL players who have been charged with domestic violence since the end of the 2010 season.  The league, and rightfully so, has faced plenty of criticism recently for inconsistent, wavering policies in attempting to adjudicate these incidents.

Until such a mechanism is put in place by the NFL to sufficiently punish the miscreants – like a "no tolerance" policy when it comes to domestic abuse – sadly, some will continue to misbehave.   And until the commissioner decides to either renounce the league's Personal Conduct Policy, or perhaps renegotiate the policy with the NFL Players, men behaving badly will continue to occur.

As a result of his indolence, the commissioner who could do something about the bad behavior simply doesn't do much at all, except to exercise an extremely uneven hand when it comes to enforcing crime and punishment within his fiefdom. 

If you ask me, that also qualifies as "men behaving badly."

John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and just completed his 24th season as the Patriots' stadium voice.  Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 29 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.

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