According to a new poll by You/Gov and Yahoo Sports, 34.5 percent of Americans are watching sports less today than a year ago because of politics. Fully half of Americans have changed their viewing habits for sports as some viewers — 11 percent — claim they watched more sports because of the political advocacy.
But three times more people said they were turning off sports broadcasts because of the messaging. The poll showed 56 percent don’t watch anymore or watch less because of the political message.
Men were more likely to turn away from sports as a result of social messages; 37.6 percent of males said they had tuned in less, as opposed to 28 percent of females. Meanwhile, 13 percent of men said they watched more sports in the wake of social justice movements, as opposed to only 7 percent of women.
The breakdown by political party runs as might be expected given the tenor of the national conversation around sports. About 13.7 percent of Democrats say they watched more sports in the wake of social justice movements, while 19 percent watched less. On the other hand, only about 8.6 percent of Republicans watched more sports, while 53 percent watched less once social justice messaging became prominent.
The decline in viewership is precipitous, not catastrophic. Teams and leagues will still get their cut of TV money, which is the only thing that kept the leagues in business during the pandemic. But certainly, the networks are not happy. The NBA’s contract with networks expires in 2024, and Major League Baseball’s contract expires in 2028. But the NFL’s deals with FOX, CBS, and NBC expire after 2022, while the ESPN contract ends at the end of this year. NHL rights — a far smaller package — end after this year.
The pandemic has had an unknown impact on sports viewership. With no fans in the stands, that extra spark of excitement has been missing. Not only that, but TV habits overall have radically changed because of the lockdowns.
But there’s no mistaking the impact of politics on sports.
Nobody wants to watch a game at the end of a long week to be lectured by millionaires. Nobody wants to see that.
We want to watch the action. Instead, for large chunks of 2020, we got nonstop lecturing and activism, especially from NBA players.
Sports are also meant to unify people. One of the best parts about sports is the fact they bring people together.
I’ve been to a lot of football games in my life, and I never asked somebody who they voted for before getting into their thoughts on the game.
We seem to have forgotten that in America. We’ve lost our sense of coming together, and sports becoming political is tearing us apart.
Politics has invaded every aspect of American life, from the bedroom to the bathroom, to the most personal and private thoughts of its citizens. Sports used to be an oasis where friends of all colors could get together and cheer for the home team and leave politics outside.
I’ve written about how immigrants assimilated into American life in the early part of this century by embracing baseball.
Back then, the hard working men who followed the fortunes of their Southside baseball club didn’t see baseball as an innocent diversion, a nice way to pass one’s leisure time. For when you work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, “leisure time” takes on a whole new meaning. Going to the ball game was an occasion. Carefully dressing in your best clothes and taking the wife and kids to the ballpark was a large part of the working class world. Immigrants who barely understood English knew how many RBIs Eddie Collins had and Shoeless Joe Jackson’s batting average. They knew that Ed Cicotte could whiz a fastball by any hitter in the league. And they could appreciate the smooth fielding and timely hitting of shortstop Buck Weaver.
It was a colorful crowd, swearing at umpires in a dozen different languages while eating picnic lunches featuring food from every ethnic group imaginable.
Back then, baseball was a uniting expedient, bringing people of all races, creeds, nationalities, colors, and classes together to root for the “boys” or the “bums.” Now, you can only root for them if they show the proper level of obeisance to the dominant political culture — a culture without mirth, or warmth, or humor. It’s a gray, drab culture reminiscent of Moscow or Prague in the ’50s and ’60s.
With no pushback allowed, we’d better get used to it.