By: Jon Pritchett, President and CEO of Mississippi Center for Public Policy.
USA Today columnist Christine Brennan was highly critical of Tiger Woods earlier this week for his refusal to weigh in on the politics of the day.
Brennan, along with several reporters at Tiger’s press conference following a recent tournament, seemed upset because he would not opine on the subject of Donald Trump and race relations, particularly “as a man of color.”
It’s as if every athlete now has an obligation to share personal views on every subject.
The constitutional right to free speech gives Tiger the right to say nothing at all. Perhaps he has a different view or a less popular one. Perhaps he voted for Trump. Maybe he didn’t vote at all. Regardless, he is not required to provide his views on politics or society.
Woods has said that to expect him to have a say on everything having to do with blackness in America because his father was black is disrespectful to his Asian mother. Because his mother is Asian, is Tiger compelled to weigh in on trade relations and Harvard’s admission policies?
Maybe Tiger just wants to talk about golf. Maybe golf fans just want hear him discuss golf. Rather than criticize Tiger for refusing to weigh in on political matters, he should be thanked for having the discipline and the good sense to let everyone enjoy the sports they like.
The USGA, PGA, LPGA, and their fans appear to understand golf is a sport, not a political weapon. Why doesn’t the rest of the sports world?If we are in the mood for political commentary, we can switch the channel to any number of networks that dedicate 24 hours every day to the subject.
It seems the governing bodies of golf understand something fundamental: The sports industry relies on fans, spectators, viewers, and players. Without attendees and viewers, the business models fall apart. Like any healthy business, the customer is at the center.
The NBA and NCAA’s boycott of North Carolina over the transgender bathroom bill and the NFL’s handling of the national anthem issue are recent examples of leagues alienating fans by involving themselves in politics.
With this is mind, why would a sports league attempt to use its sport as a weapon for politics? Sports fans come from all political persuasions. Why jeopardize your relationship with the customer over political issues?
We’ve been asking that question of ESPN, NBA, NFL, NCAA, and other sports organizations of late. Using the resources of a sports organization or the resources of a media company to advance an agenda seems a flawed strategy, and there is data emerging to support this.
In nearly every measured television market, center right-viewers are leaving ESPN. Deep Root, a TV data service, analyzed 43 markets across the US and compared 2015 audiences with 2016 audiences. In 36 of the 43 markets, ESPN viewership had become more liberal—between 5 percent and 27 percent more liberalin 2016 than in 2015.
In other words, center-right viewers left the network.
Those of us who want our sports delivered free of political commentary salute Tiger Woods and the sport of golf. Now please have a talk with your organizational cohorts at the NFL, NBA, and NCAA. We sports consumers/fans would like to have our sports back.
Sports have always been a common denominator in our culture. Regardless of race, age, sex, education, or political affiliation, sport is a unifier. That needs to be respected.
With all of the balkanization that exists in the other parts of our lives, let’s leave sports alone. We’ve already surrendered higher education, arts, music, media, and filmmaking to progressives. They can’t have sports, too.