Could we see another sports career wrecked at the crossroads of sports and politics?
Many of us want to believe that sports offers a refuge from politics.
But as we now contemplate kneeling NFL stars, China dictating NBA policy, the U.S. national women’s soccer team refusing to stand for their country’s anthem, and a black race car driver singlehandedly ending a decades-old tradition of the Confederate flag fluttering at stock car races, a Slate.com piece from 2018 reminds us that the two institutions have been intertwined far longer than we want to admit.
Slate’s example referenced a horse race in Richmond in 1832. The contestants included a horse named Andrew Jackson, for the then-president, and another called Nullifier, whose moniker referenced those who argued against a federal tariff supported by Jackson.
Jack Del Rio, a former NFL player and head coach who is now an assistant with the Washington Redskins, whose nickname has surfaced as something to be aggrieved about during the current protests over racism, may soon find himself nullified.
Del Rio took to Twitter on Tuesday to dispatch several tweets that showed support for President Donald Trump.
According to The Washington Times, Del Rio quote-tweeted a post that included a fake tweet about radical Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The original poster had declared that AOC “hates America.”
Del Rio also tweeted support of a video that argued Trump is not a racist. The tweet generated responses from several critics, who predictably called Del Rio a racist for supporting Trump.
“I’m 100% for America, if you’re not you can kiss my A$$,” tweeted Del Rio.
On Wednesday, that tweet had garnered nearly 42,000 likes. One who applauded Del Rio wrote, “Imagine calling a guy racist whose (sic) coached and been personally involved in players (sic) lives in a league that is 70% black because you disagree with his political stance. Former players have had nothing but glowing reviews, but I’m sure those who have never met him know better.”
In light of Del Rio’s tweets, a couple of things are obvious about the intersection of sports and politics.
First, athletes who turned political in decades past largely did so to support their country and promote its causes. Now, the emphasis for pro athletes is to badmouth our nation and any Republican who happens to represent it.
Secondly, thinking aloud like Del Rio can invite professional suicide. Just ask NFL superstar Drew Brees, who stood, literally, for the flag during the recent unrest and escaped with his career hanging by a thread only after he and his wife groveled at the feet of the mob. So we’ll see if Del Rio faces similar blowback.
We like to hope we live in a free nation where someone like Del Rio can still speak his mind, and not pay for it by losing his job because his comments conflict with a loud, media-savvy mob. It’s a long shot, but if Del Rio remains employed for the upcoming season, we might be inching our way back to that.
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