Sports and Politics 2019: Kaepernick

You can move on from "politics," but maybe politics doesn't feel like moving on from you. I believe that the most important trend in sports over the past few years and especially 2019 has been the increasing relevance of politics to sports coverage. The current intrusion of politics in sports has its genesis in the Colin Kaepernick story. The Kaepernick story is a loser for the NFL. The league has wanted to separate itself from Kaepernick for several years. It just can't figure out how to do so. There are some things that the NFL could do to lessen or manage the "Kaepernick controversy" but declaring it is over isn't one of them. Roger Goodell recently summed up last month's Kaepernick workout as follows: "This was about creating an opportunity," Goodell said. "We created that opportunity. It was a unique opportunity, an incredible opportunity and he chose not to take it. I understand that.  And we've moved on here." Seems like the PR firm decided that "opportunity" was the right word to convey the NFL's intentions. No offense to Goodell (much offense to the PR folks) but declaring the argument / fight / controversy to be over can't possibly work. The fundamental problem for the NFL is that Kaepernick holds the media high ground. The media loves the story and is generally aligned with Kapernick's political orientation. I'm not going to delve into the question of how leagues should manage politics (in this post) but step 1 is to appreciate the media landscape. Any plan or approach needs to start from an understanding of the incentives and ideological biases of the media. The NFL does not seem to grasp this fundamental step.

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