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Fans might walk away from pro sports

Ben Domenech writes for the Federalist about the potential long-term impact of pro athletes’ latest political antics.

Pro sports is profoundly enjoyable as entertainment, and as human drama there are few things that can match it. But on a certain level, this Seinfeld comment may be his most true observation: you’re rooting for laundry. The same player you loved in one uniform, whose strengths you valued and whose failures you dismissed as quirks of the trade, becomes nothing but a hated rival, a traitor, who took the money instead of playing for less while garbed in the proper colors.

But one thing we need to acknowledge is this: professional sports is not an essential good. It is a luxury good. Americans were satisfied for most of our history by sports that have little to no cultural impact now. And what this pandemic has taught us is that in a world of vast amounts of entertainment, if the entertainment isn’t there, humanity will go elsewhere. The explosion of esports during the lockdown is just one example of that – Twitch viewership has exploded, as the virtual arena never closed. Humanity is entertained by competition of all kinds, and professional physical competition is just one variety of that. If it diminishes in quality – if the show sucks – they will switch to another and find a new way to cheer and chant and boo. When the Super Bowl is over, you turn on Netflix. …

… Fans generally like players because they’re athletes. Writers like them when they become more than athletes, when they make for better subject matter. Surrounded by cooing media members who incentivize political statements, some athletes can be gaslit into thinking the world is different than it is. …

… People turn on athletes when they refuse to play – sometimes vociferously, but more often by just turning to other things. And then the corporate sponsors and the people with television contracts to honor start to get antsy.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...