AMAC Exclusive by Andrew Abbott
After COVID-19 rocked the sports world in 2020, with most professional teams playing shortened seasons for empty stadiums and many college and youth teams canceling their seasons altogether, Americans were understandably ready to return to a semblance of normalcy in their favorite pastimes in 2021. However, as with corporate culture, schools, and seemingly everything else in American life over the past year, radical left-wing ideologies have infiltrated the sporting world and prevented any “return to normalcy.”
Here are six of the most egregious examples of how wokeism ruined sports in 2021.
- Male College Swimmer Changes Gender, Becomes Fastest Female Swimmer in the Country, Drawing Fawning Media Coverage
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas is lighting the women’s swim world on fire. The 22-year-old swimmer now holds the Ivy League’s 500 Freestyle, 200 Freestyle, and 1650 Freestyle women’s records. For that final record, the second-place swimmer finished a full 38 seconds behind Thomas. She’s on pace to take down Katie Ledecky, arguably the greatest female swimmer of all time. There’s just one small caveat.
Before Lia Thomas was Lia Thomas, she was Will Thomas. Will competed for three years at UPenn as a male swimmer, took a year off to “transition,” and is now competing as a “woman.” Before the transition, Will was a competitive swimmer in the male division but far from a world record holder. Now, as a woman, Thomas will likely be, statistically, one of—if not the—greatest swimmers in women’s swimming history.
The NCAA only requires a trans female athlete to take one year of testosterone suppressants to compete against women. Most health experts believe a minimum of two years is necessary to even begin to equalize the physiological disparities between men and women. Even then, it’s not clear that someone born a male who transitions to a female wouldn’t have a clear physical advantage in any strength-based athletic competition. In short, the science suggests that Lia has an advantage over her female competitors akin to using performance-enhancing drugs.
Regardless of the fairness of the situation, Lia is considered “amazing” and an “inspiration” by the mainstream media. Perhaps someone should ask the female swimmers on UPenn’s team who Lia has replaced, who worked their whole lives to compete at that level—or those who have had their records shattered by someone who just a year ago was an average male swimmer—if they feel the same way.
- ESPN Makes Documentary About Bubba Wallace “Noose Incident” that FBI Investigation Ruled Was Bunk
In June of 2020, reports emerged that a noose was found in the temporary garage of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, the only black driver on the full-time NASCAR circuit, at Talladega Speedway in Alabama. Quickly labeled a hate crime, the incident was seized upon by ESPN, the mainstream media, and the wider cultural left as another example of “systemic racism” in American culture.
The only problem was, according to an FBI investigation, the rope was not, in fact, a noose, but was a garage door pull that had been there for months, long before Wallace used the garage. Some commentators pointed out that, as a professional NASCAR driver, Wallace and other NASCAR officials should have quickly recognized this simple fact, raising questions about the true intentions of those pushing the narrative that Wallace was the victim of a hate crime.
But none of this stopped ESPN from creating an entire documentary based on the event – ironically enough, released just one week after Empire actor Jussie Smollett was convicted of staging a hate crime against himself. The trailer for the documentary makes no mention of the fact that the noose was not actually a noose, and goes to great lengths to shed doubt on the FBI investigation. Toward the end of the documentary, an exasperated Steve Phelps, the President of NASCAR, seems bewildered at the insistence from ESPN and other left-wing voices that a hate crime did occur despite all evidence to the contrary. “There wasn’t a hate crime, isn’t that a good thing?” he asks. “There wasn’t a hate crime, thank God there wasn’t a hate crime!”
- NFL Caught Funding “Abolish the Police” Groups that Bailed out Child Rapists and Domestic Abusers.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the National Football League made it clear they are committed to “change.” No, they wouldn’t be addressing the absurdly high cost of games, the harassment of cheerleaders by team owners, the disturbingly frequent incidents of domestic abuse by current players, or even the startling number of neurological complications plaguing former players that have led to a number of high-profile suicides. Instead, according to a new report, the NFL – at the direction of perhaps the most unpopular commissioner in sports, Roger Goodell, and with the backing of key owners like John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers – chose to “Inspire Change” by giving money to social justice groups dedicated to abolishing the police, prisons, and immigration detention.
We now know that one of the groups they chose to send money to was the Minnesota Freedom Fund. This organization believes all forms of cash bail are wrong and racist. Their solution is to post bail for any detained individual, regardless of their crime. This principle led to the release of rioters who attempted to burn down federal buildings, child rapists, and domestic abusers. Other groups like “The Community Justice Exchange,” which the NFL also worked with, have aggressively pushed to eliminate all prisons in America. Though that goal may help the NFL considering how many of their athletes have served significant jail time for violent offenses.
- Cleveland Indians Change their Name to the Cleveland “Guardians.”
2021 saw another sports franchise name sacrificed upon the altar of wokeism. The beloved Cleveland baseball team, once known as the “Indians” is now the “Guardians.” While the woke celebrated this as a victory for indigenous persons, another team’s similar experience suggests otherwise.
In 2016, the calls to rename the NFL’s Washington Redskins reached such a fevered pitch that the name change seemed imminent. Then, the Washington Post revealed a poll that seemed to shock even the pollsters. They found that nine out of ten Native Americans didn’t find the name “redskins” offensive. Those calling for the name change turned out to be predominantly white liberals looking for something to get angry about.
Nonetheless, the Redskins logo and team name were revoked in 2020. Then this past year, the Cleveland Indians were renamed the “Guardians,” a name that only 15 percent of Cleveland supported. In a fitting symbol of how much of a flop the name change was, the new ‘Guardians’ sign above the team shop crashed to the ground and shattered the very first day after it was installed. It could be worse! They could be a football team from Washington named “The Washington Football Team.”
- Mark Cuban Orders Dallas Mavericks to Stop Playing National Anthem
They tried to sneak this one past us. With COVID-19 raging and NBA teams playing in vacant courts, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban quietly told his organization to stop playing the Star-Spangled Banner before games. Ever since Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the National Anthem in 2016, the simple act of playing the song had become so vilified by the left as a reminder of “systemic racism” that the outspoken Mavericks owner decided to do away with it. After all, who would care? And if it meant Cuban would be more popular with Hollywood A-listers and cultural elites, all the better.
To the surprise of no one, there are a great many Americans for whom the Anthem is a source of pride and patriotism, not controversy and shame. After intense backlash and a ratings plummet, the NBA affirmed that playing the song was required before all games. While the woke police have backed off, for now, they will undoubtedly be back.
- MLB Strips All-Star Game from Georgia Because it Passed Voter Integrity Law that Actually Expanded Voting Access
In the wake of last year’s election disasters, and accusations on both sides of fraud and voter suppression, respectively, this year Georgia and other states passed voter integrity laws that both expanded voter access and made fraud less likely.
While this seemed like a reasonable move to most Americans, Democrats, the mainstream media, and Major League Baseball absolutely lost their minds.
In an almost comical move, former Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia Stacey Abrams actually encouraged corporations to boycott her own state, saying that “boycotts work” in an op-ed for USA Today. Of course, once Abrams realized the economic devastation that would likely come as a result of her statements, USA Today quietly edited the piece to downplay her support for boycotts.
Democrats nonetheless began pressuring everyone from corporations to musicians to boycott the Peach State. Major League Baseball listened and relocated their All-Star game to Denver, costing Georgians $100 million in potential revenue. The move particularly hurt black-owned businesses in Atlanta, who would’ve stood to make huge profits from the economic activity surrounding the game. In what struck many as a satisfying stroke of karma, the Atlanta Braves won the world series later the same year—and Atlanta fans roundly booed the MLB’s foolish woke commissioner, Rob Manfred.
That rounds out the worst of 2021’s year-in-woke-sports review. While wokeness largely had its way with many of our most beloved pastimes this year, there are, at least, some small signs of hope for the new year ahead. For example, a recent report found that, while 63 percent of corporate executives – which includes the people who, at the end of the day, own and are responsible for the actions of sports franchises – believe their companies should speak out on social issues, “only 36 percent of voters agree.” Based on the declining ratings for nearly every major sports league, it appears that those voters are sports fans as well. With their precious profits threatened, perhaps sports teams will reverse course back, and resume their proper function in American life—as an escape from politics, stress, and social division, rather than an extension of it.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.