Pigskin and Politics – NFL Commentators Go Off Script
Sports have historically been a ‘politics free zone’ where Americans of all ideological stripes and party affiliation can congregate and just enjoy some good old fashioned athletic competition. Not any more. Sure, there have been times throughout history where sports and politics have collided—Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted to fight in Vietnam on religious grounds, Jesse Owens’ performance at the Berlin Olympics and the US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow are all examples of this. A more recent trend, however, has seen sports commentators weigh in on political issues given the flimsiest excuse to do so.
Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly deserves some sort of dispensation in this discussion as he’s never had any pretense of being other than a political commentator. That didn’t stop him from participating in a bizarre sitdown interview with President Barack Obama during the 2010 Super Bowl pregame show. On one level it made sense for both men—it’s the biggest single television audience of the year and the game was broadcast on Fox TV. For Fox and O’Reilly it gave one of their ‘franchise players’ exposure to a huge audience that might not ordinarily watch him. For Obama, it was also a ‘no lose’ proposition—he got access to the same huge audience and the easy mea culpa that any controversial comment was due to the hostile questioning from the ideologically opposed Fox TV host. Despite accusations from the right that Obama was ‘evasive’ and from the left over O’Reilly’s ‘disrespect’ for the President the two men curiously reprised their interview before the 2014 Super Bowl. Many online betting fans remember that year as one of the most successful years for sports betting and earning cash.
The reigning champion of political diatribes during sporting events is NBC’s Bob Costas. He didn’t get a chance to do much bloviation and pontificating during the 2014 Winter Olympics due to a ghastly eye infection that he insisted on subjecting viewers to despite having several capable replacements waiting in the wings. He was replaced by Matt Lauer for two nights and Meredith Viera for one night but still had time to bash the legitimacy of snowboarding as an Olympic event and—more egregiously—praise Russian President Vladimir Putin for generally being a great guy despite copious evidence to the contrary.
Costas’ big stem-winders came before the Olympic games during NFL broadcasts. In separate incidents he went off against the 2nd Amendment in the wake of football player Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide and later took to task the ownership of the Washington Redskins for their refusal to address what many consider a ‘racist’ nickname. It wasn’t that Costas didn’t have good points in both instances—it was the utter impropriety of subjecting NFL viewers to them in his role as a pro football announcer.