Hardcore socialist Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation magazine, characterizes 2019 as a time of political resistance and victory against Trumpian white nationalists. His heroes shone in spite of the “orange smear” in the White House, and he also issued a call to arms for young journalist comrades to take up the social justice fight beyond the playing field.
Among Zirin’s heroes and heroines for the nearly completed year in woke sports are:
Megan Rapinoe ― “It’s been remarkable for me to see Rapinoe’s ascension from a little-known soccer player with great—albeit ignored—politics to an international icon in a few short years. It has to be noted, and Rapinoe would be the first to say, that attention first came her way when she knelt in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick in 2016. But since then, she has become a front-line leader for social justice in her own right, in particular taking up the issue of equal pay for women and turning it into a demand that extended far beyond the soccer field. She and her team, on the road to their thrilling World Cup triumph, became a social movement that happened to play soccer.
“Along the way, with every garland of glory, she has made political speeches, speaking out for LGBTQ, gender, racial, and economic justice, all while under the seething eye of the orange smear in the White House, who was practically rooting for this World Cup team to fail. Oh, and by the way, she did all this while dominating on the field, picking up every award along the way.”
Colin Kaepernick (whose paper thin athletic “accomplishments” included personal workouts and his continuing Nike shoe deals rather than anything resembling real competition) ― He’s “still unbreakable, still stubbornly himself, showing up to his hastily called clown show of an NFL tryout wearing a Kunta Kinte shirt, wanting back in the league but refusing to do it on their terms; refusing to be broken,” Zirin says.
Kyle Korver ― “There was NBA vet Kyle Korver writing a remarkable viral essay in April about whiteness and wrestling with how to be an effective ally.” Korver’s white guilt trip, titled “Privileged,” occurred on The Players Tribune blog in April. Remarkably, he declared that white people are responsible for the racist sins of their forefathers.
Others who inspired Zirin this year were “the Boston Red Sox players of color, including their manager Alex Cora, last May, refusing to go to the White House in open solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico. There was soccer player Alejandro Bedoya in August, speaking out on the field for gun control after the massacres in El Paso and Dayton. There was NFL player Kenny Stills also in August, calling out his own then-boss, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, for his hypocrisy in calling for racial healing while raising millions for Trump. … There were trans athletes refusing to be silenced and put on the bench despite an organized backlash.”
Zirin’s universe also recognizes red flags and a disturbing legacy.:
“The sports world has, in my mind, strongly reflected the broader political scene. Just as 2019 must be remembered not only as a time of authoritarian ascendancy but also for the massive protests against austerity and for democracy across the world, this year the backlash and efforts to silence athletes was met by an electric, albeit under-reported, resistance.”
The Nation’s sports editor is mourning the loss of the sports blog Deadspin, which shuttered its disgustingly juvenile, irreverent, often vulgar soapbox several weeks ago. The gutting of Sports Illustrated and the “broader crisis” in left-stream newspapers also marked a point of literary death for crucial social justice voices in sports media. Zirin issues a call for continued resistance from his fellow traveler media comrades.
“Consider this a call to arms to young journalists and prospective sportswriters across the country whose horizons extend beyond the playing field: You are needed, now more than ever,” Zirin writes. “The future is murky. Employment prospects are ailing. But the fight is ongoing. It must be chronicled and remembered, or risk being lost in the hot air.”