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The Russell Report: The line between politics and sports

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 5:56 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that our county right now is as divided as it has been in a long time. Amid the turmoil we are in with mass shootings, questions about police tactics and the Black Lives Matter movement, athletes have used their voice perhaps more than they ever have. Some applaud it, some don’t like it at all.

This debate has erupted on my SportsScene radio show of late. Some say the show is appreciated because I would not inject politics into a sports show; and for the most part, that has been true. But things change, and events have occurred that blur that line more than ever. When Major League Baseball decides to move its All-Star Game from Atlanta because of the Georgia voting law changes, that is a sports story plain and simple. When officials from the Summer Olympic Games say athletes will not be allowed any form of protest or demonstrations during an official ceremony or at the podium, we may not like the politics of it, but it is a sports story nonetheless, and it should be reported and brought up for discussion for its impact on sports.

Some people long for the day when they used sports to get away from things or the problems of the world. They say they just want to watch sports and their favorite athletes without politics or social discussion; the old shut up and play mentality. I get it, sports to some extent is an escape from all that. And in a perfect world, that’s the way it would be. But this is not a perfect world, and some of the athletes who play the sports we love feel, rightly or wrongly, that they should use their platform for social change they deem necessary to make. Think Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, think the ’68 Olympics with Tommie Smith and John Carlos as prime examples of that.

So call up SportsScene every weekday at noon and talk sports. That’s what i’m there to do: Talk Gators, college football, baseball, NFL draft, whatever! But also know there may be days when the discussion does to go topics that are uncomfortable for we who love sports. Sometimes, discussing those issues can help us all in the long run!

“SportsScene with Steve Russell” airs Monday-Friday on ESPN 98.1 FM and AM 850 WRUF.

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