“Worth should outshine color.”
According to Business Insider, “that simple phrase is the basis for Nike’s new campaign that speaks up for equality. The Equality campaign encourages people to take the fairness and respect they see on the court, pitch, playing field and other sporting venues to translate them off the field.”
Because as everyone knows, just like any other aspect of American society, a person of color just can’t catch a break in the world of sports.
On Wednesday, “The worldwide leader in sports", ESPN made the decision to lay off scores of employees including journalists and on-air talent. According to Nielsen ratings, ESPN has been losing viewers to the tune of millions over the last few years. To coincide with the loss of viewership, the network has eliminated hundreds of jobs and even parted ways with some of the company’s most recognizable talent in recent months.
In a column for the website Cinemablend, author Mack Rawden praises the talent of ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt as "someone who can attract younger, more culturally aware viewers." Rawden claims the network will look "to find a few more personalities like him who aren't afraid to tackle gambling and racier topics."
But is attracting "culturally aware viewers" and taking on "racier topics" the solution for ESPN, or is it part of the problem? Do people want progressive politics and social justice causes mixed in with their sports? Or do they simply want to watch men and women compete in a politics-free environment?
Progressive politics, social justice and sports simply cannot coexist. ESPN is finding this out the hard way and apparently, sports apparel giant Nike, didn’t get the memo when they decided to launch their "Equality" campaign back in February.
Imagine for one second that we took the advice of the Nike campaign to take what we see “on the court, playing field and other sporting venues to translate them off the field.” The collective heads of every social justice warrior in the world would simultaneously explode.
Sports teams are the most homogenous entities that exist in any form, typically being comprised of individuals of the same race and always the same sex. How would that fly off the field of play? What if a Presidential cabinet mirrored the make-up of the New York Rangers? Like the NYPD and FDNY, shouldn't the city's hockey team "look more like New York City"?
The average NBA player makes far more money than the average WNBA player. How would that be received off the court? A man making literally hundreds of times more than a woman for doing the same job? Some folks may see a problem with that in a different setting.
U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who is as little known for her play on the field as she is for her decision to take a knee in solidarity with fellow ingrate and complete equal Colin Kaepernick, is one of the faces of Nike’s pathetic campaign. Without being privy to the numbers, one can assume that Nike is not paying Rapinoe the same as fellow soccer star and complete equal Cristiano Rinaldo, who signed a lifetime deal with the sports giant worth an estimated $1 billion. It is also unclear whether Rinaldo or “Equality” spokesman and complete equal LeBron James (who also has a lifetime deal with Nike estimated at over $1 billion) has offered to split their endorsements with Rapinoe. Apparently, equality only runs so deep at Nike.
Competitive sports, by its nature, is the antithesis of the modern day “social justice” movement. There are no quotas, no special treatment (unless earned), no illegitimate nepotism, and no affirmative action. It is simply a purely merit-based, free-market system. Who is the best person for the job? Who gives us the best chance to win? If everyone is white, so be it. If everyone is black, so be it. No one is going to jeopardize the potential success of their team for a social experiment.
With sports, it is difficult to make legitimate accusations of racism, sexism or any other kind of discrimination because it essentially does not exist and everyone knows it. Aside from cheating, no one cares about equality and justice in sports. They only care about winning and when one is only motivated by winning, there is no room for discrimination.
The notion of equality is obviously a feel-good myth meant to sell T-shirts and give social justice warriors something to do. And nowhere is that myth more easily debunked then on the field of play. But equal opportunity, not to be confused with equality, is also displayed in its purest form through competitive sports.
There may be a place for a social agenda in sports. Sports can teach discipline, teamwork and personal responsibility. If children’s sports leagues want to set rules where every child must play in the game or the taunting and humiliation of other children is prohibited, that may be a worthy cause. But in the world of competitive and professional sports, there is no place for a progressive, social justice movement.
There are several factors in ESPN’s declining viewership. Increasing competition from other outlets is most likely the major cause. But the decision to push a political and social agenda is certainly not helping.
It is unlikely that Nike will receive any negative effects from this ridiculous campaign. If it makes a young girl feel good to see a picture of a female sports star with a caption reading, “equality”, then maybe it is a noble cause. But she and Nike must understand that equality will never exist in truly competitive sports. And that is a beautiful thing.