This week the very idea of “sticking to sports” was impossible. Everywhere you looked, in all markets all over the country, news-type issues were front and center. To be in the sports media meant you had to address it head-on. Avoiding harassment, racism, and politics meant ignorance, and none of it was pleasant.
Remember, this week was after the Jon Gruden email saga, so if that soured you on NFL talk this month, it was not even part of this week’s awful dialogue.
The hockey world was stunned when it was revealed that a former Chicago Blackhawks player filed a lawsuit against the team for mishandling his sexual assault allegations. The player who was unknown until he was interviewed by TSN in Canada but was revealed to be former Chicago Blackhawk Kyle Beach. He alleged that former video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted and harassed him during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run.
Joel Quenneville was the coach of that 2010 Chicago team and is currently the head coach of the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are off to a nice start and their season is completely disrupted. Try avoiding the topic then.
The tweet of the week was from ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski
Oh, and New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood got his 1st vaccination shot. That was the lead story for my hometown team. Still, sticking to sports?
The week started with trade rumors regarding Houston Texans embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson. There are many injuries in the NFL, and a rumor involving the Miami Dolphins surfaced. Watson is still on the Texans’ roster but is not close to seeing the field.
Try breaking down the football ramifications of a Watson trade without mentioning the 22 civil lawsuits of sexual misconduct that the quarterback is facing and that 10 women have filed police complaints.
Throw in Thursday night’s marquee matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.
And in case you could avoid sexual harassment and Covid in your football talk, the NFL announced Thursday changes in the Rooney Rule, requiring teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions and all coordinator roles.
The week STARTED with a protest outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn from anti-vaxxers supporting Kyrie Irving’s decision to not get vaccinated. Protesters were chanting “no vaccine mandate” and “let Kyrie play” as they pushed past an arena entrance before Sunday’s Brooklyn Nets game against the Charlotte Hornets. Security was forced to lock down the arena for some time.
One was armed with a pair of baseball bats. Another sported a swastika. Most were vocally anti-vaccination. No one was hurt, thankfully.
Kevin Durant did not comment about the lockdown, saying only that the team has missed Irving while getting off to a slow start. Durant is silent, but can sports media be? Hardly.
This scene, by the way, completely overshadowed another player stepping into a political minefield when Celtics reserve big man Enis Kanter called out Nike for not doing more to put pressure on the Chinese government.
As soon as reporters gathered at Minute Maid Park for the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was cornered on the Braves’ team name and tomahawk chop cheer being insensitive to Native Americans.
“The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including ‘The Chop,’” Manfred told reporters. “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”
It hardly ends there. This summer, MLB announced they were pulling the 2021 All-Star Game out of Truist Park in Georgia because of recent voting laws that make it harder for minorities. The decision cost Georgia millions, and the idea that Manfred would hand the World Series trophy to the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park is… complicated to say the least.
That’s ok, if sports radio and television hosts would rather stay away from issues of race, they can focus on the Houston Astros, a team marred in the afterglow of their 2017 cheating scandal.
Fans in Houston consider Manfred the villain of the scandal, so that trophy presentation will look similarly awkward.
In college football-crazed Alabama, my lead story on the Alabama Radio Network was Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin refusing to discuss his vaccination status. Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is also keeping his status private.
The schools are requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 8, except in limited circumstances that legally entitle an employee to a medical or religious exemption. Former Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich and members of his staff were let go by the school for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates.
I have mentioned on radio shows, podcasts, and in previous columns how sick I am of talking about Covid-19. I do not want to talk about Chris Sale or Kirk Cousins anymore. Still, the coaches of these programs are the center of attention. They sure are good role models, right?
I worry about sports media when stations are laying off people or controversies surround announcers. Still, try doing a sports show on either television or radio this week without tackling some heavy “news” topics.
As unpleasant as it may be, ignoring it is worse. Sports are a microcosm of society, and purposely avoiding the various elephants in the room