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HENSLEY: Sports teams need to wake up

By Judith Hensley
Contributing columnist

In an ordinary year it is time for Friday night lights, college football and NFL games. The sound of cheering fans and sports commentators would usually fill the air waves and social plans. Fans would be pacified with football until basketball season kicked in.

2020 is no ordinary year.

A person would think that under these extreme pandemic circumstances, all the teams would be thankful for an opportunity to play, whether it is football, basketball, soccer, hockey, golf or any other sport. Professional teams who have contracts for gargantuan salaries ought to be especially thankful.

Instead, our professional athletes have lost focus of who they are and why they earn such high paychecks. High school and college teams are following their lead in using their sporting events to make political statements through their pre-game behavior.

Sporting events are not the place to use public exposure for making political statements.

Take a knee, don’t take a knee. Sing the national anthem, don’t sing the national anthem. Say the Pledge of Allegiance, don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. Put your hand over your heart during the national anthem, or don’t. If the cameras weren’t rolling, what would they do?

If I was a paying fan, working big ticket prices into my budget, I would feel eve more strongly about this.

Who wants to pay to watch a sporting event and have to put up with the million-dollar athletes doing things as a political statement of their private philosophies?

Just because a camera is rolling doesn’t make it OK to use that exposure to try to make a statement.

Some people follow their passions and let them spill out in misguided places. Isn’t the public at large entitled to watch a professional sporting event, an award ceremony speech or a high school ball game without dragging politics into it?

Somehow, I think athletes became an elite group who truly believe they have power and influence because of their physical abilities and that everyone should bow to their personal whims.

There will always be groupies and followers of every type of celebrity. Our athletes need to realize that they are playing as a form of entertainment for everyone and not just the star chasers.

I enjoy some sporting events, but I’m not a die-hard fan. I’m probably not the one whom any sports team needs to worry about my opinion.

However, there is a growing discontent among the fans, and especially the die-hard fans, with behavior by athletes on the field that has absolutely nothing to do with the sport itself.

I’ve heard countless people say they are fed up with athletes being used (and maybe paid) to be political chess pieces on the field or on the floor.

When fans who have been faithful to watch and attend sporting events for many years say they are fed up and not going to watch or attend anymore, there is major trouble on the horizon.

With many sporting events taking place without fans in the stands, it is clear that the athletes who feel they must make a political statement by their pre-game behavior are doing it for the cameras. They may not realize how close they are to losing a large block of fans.

If the fans go, big salaries will go too. Television cameras won’t cover events that are not being watched on the air. No matter how good an athlete is, if there is no crowd to watch and admire them, their glory quickly fades.

Standing outside a situation and looking on sometimes gives a more realistic view of what is happening. I have no personal agenda. I’m not a die-hard sports fan, but the handwriting is on the wall. People are fed up with everything we see and hear having a political slant.

It’s time to get back to the reason athletes are supposed to play and compete. It should be about the game and the joy of playing or watching. There are other ways of acting out political affiliations or convictions outside of sports arenas.

My advice is to get back to playing for the love of the game and do it quickly.

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