Sport has always been political.

Fox News commentator and professional fear monger Laura Ingraham relayed a message to LeBron James after a video of him and Kevin Durant discussing racial and societal issues hit the internet.


“Shut up and dribble,” she said, implying that athletes have no business stating political opinions.

Let’s forget for a moment that she has promoted the nonsensical ramblings of former professional ball-thrower Curt Schilling, a half-melted butter stick of a man who believes trans women are preying on young girls in bathrooms across America. Let’s ignore for a second that Ingraham’s blatant dog whistle to white supremacists everywhere has become more of a foghorn, both in volume and lack of subtlety.

Sport has always been political.

Megan Rapinoe, midfielder for the U.S. Women’s National Team and one of the greatest female soccer players in American history, is outspoken on her stance for LGBTQ+ rights. NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich regularly answer political questions from the media.

“Stick to sports,” and its variations have been floated around by folks in countless situations whenever sportsmen and sportswomen have an opinion outside their fields. But to state the obvious, there’s usually a specific target proponents of that phrase have in mind. I’ll give you a hint: Popovich, Kerr and Rapinoe are white, and the outrage just isn't there for them to the extent it is for LeBron and KD. 

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ famous raised-fist salute, a signal of solidarity with the Black Power movement, was labeled as "a deliberate and violent breach” of Olympic values by the International Olympic Committee. IOC president Avery Brundage had no issue at the 1936 games with hundreds of thousands of Nazi salutes, but attempted to ban the entire U.S. track team for Smith and Carlos’ actions.

Nowadays, the only thing that has changed is the medium and speed through which we can experience unabashed racism. Twitter gives us the latest Tomi Lahren outrage-fest over black men kneeling during the national anthem in a matter of seconds.

The 1938 Max Schmeling-Joe Louis boxing rematch pitted the pride of German Aryan principles against a black man from LaFayette, Alabama. The 1973 Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs Battle of the Sexes catalysed a shift in American views of women. The 1972 Bobby Fisher-Boris Spassky chess world championship was decades of Cold War tension coming to a head. Sports help humanity cope with the harsh realities of the world. They’re a way to role-play and resolve beef between cities, countries and races.

Sport has always been political.

And sometimes, that’s a good thing. Sports reflect society more closely than you think.

After 9/11, in the midst of the 2001 baseball season, MLB commissioner Bud Selig shut down games for a week. Baseball, America’s pastime, provided no relief for seven days after the horrific events of that pristine Tuesday morning in New York. America grieved. Nothing seemed to matter much anymore.

Then, in what can only be described as either an act of defiance or classic American can-do attitude, we played on. George W. Bush threw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium a few miles from the site of the World Trade Center, just over a month after the towers fell.

Sticking to sports is inherently bad. Athletes have platforms, and we would all get bored if all we heard them say was strict evaluations of their play and nothing else.

Sport has always been — and will always be — political.

Morgan McMullen is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at