Double Fault: When Sports' Millionaires Try To Lecture On How Tough It Is To Be Them
If you’re one of those who think that today’s uber-rich athletes are maybe a little got up on their societal importance, last week was not a great time to be a sports fan. From Nike playing the Colin Kaepernick race card to Serena Williams pleading for women’s rights, it was the agony of the feed from the culture mavens.
It started with a new commercial from Nike which purports that unemployed black NFL quarterback Kaepernick is being sacrificed to the evil gods of the white patriarchy that run the league. The ad campaign, which says Kaepernick sacrificed everything for his multi-million dollar Nike contract, rolled out in print and on TV as the American football season, shows a dramatic black-and-white image of Kaepernick staring beatifically into the camera.
The TV version shows Kaepernick intermingled with a number of physically and mentally handicapped athletes. He speaks briefly, sounding Gandhi-like, and the commercial goes on to equate him with The Struggle To Dream. See? A struggling QB, who was 1-11 at the time he took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner, is comparable to a one-armed Olympian because he opted out of his contract in a gamble for millions- and lost.
Both campaigns are slick and know their audience very well. What they won’t quote are a few uncomfortable facts. We discussed the alleged racial oppression by cops discussed in an earlier column . In a 2017 U.S. population of 325 million, 20 million of them black men— nineteen were reported unarmed as they were shot by cops. Their chances of being killed by police while unarmed are the same as being killed by lightning strike. Meanwhile cops were 18.5 times more likely to be killed by an armed black man.)
Absent these facts, the marriage of Kaepernick and Nike was inevitable as the Left tries to rally its base for this fall’s U.S. midterm elections. In a climate where corporations tremble in fear of the activist left Nike is hoping the the buying power of the progressive left will wash away its controversies about slave labour and hiring practices. And what is more of a symbol of traditional America’s values than the NFL?
As with virtually everything else in this polarized society, few minds will be changed. The real issue is will Nike, the culture mavens, make a pile on it? While its stock seemed to stagger as the campaign rolled out, sales figures seemed to get a jump. Kaepernick? He’ll never play QB again in the NFL as a starter. He’ll have the hosannas of the lefty crowd.
But the veneration of a man who wore cops-as-pigs socks to denigrate police? Seeks a strange way to Just Do It.
While Nike’s commercial roiled, tennis star Serena Williams boiled over in the women’s final of the U.S. Open. After losing her first set, Williams was assessed a penalty point for getting coaching from her coach in the stands (a tennis no-no that beggars explanation). This commenced a Serena tirade against the chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
When Ramos assessed her another penalty point for breaking her racket in a fit of pique, the tirade went ballistic. Williams demanded an apology from Ramos for saying she cheated. She accused the chair (and tennis in general) of bias against women. When Williams called Ramos a thief for stealing points from her, he assessed her a game penalty, putting her one game from elimination.
With Williams in tears, U.S. Open officials tried to mend fences. To no avail. A distraught Williams lost to first-timer Naomi Osaka. During the winner's ceremony, the crowd rained boos down on the whole fiasco. Williams begged them to give Osaka, also in tears, her moment of glory. As if.
In the postgame, Williams’ coach admitted he was coaching (“Everyone does it,” he explained). But Williams— who’s probably the only thing worth watching in women’s tennis most days— stuck to her no-coaching stance. She then pivoted to the bias against women in tennis and appealed for equity.
While Ramos choosing a Grand Slam final to make a point about the absurd coaching rules of tennis was probably ill-advised, Williams herself was the architect of her demise. Williams has a well-documented history of abusing officials (she threatened to f**k up a line judge who displeased her and she’s berated others during competition) and her threats to the official were naked intimidation.
But her put-upon message was predictably embraced by the SJW crowd. The insecurity of the women in tennis has a real genesis (see the Billie Jean King movie Battle of the Sexes). They’ve often been made to feel that they’re an add-on to the more prestigious men’s Tour. While much has changed the gods of tennis have often misplayed this insecurity.
But extrapolating Williams’ temper tantrum into a cause celebre for all women is another groaner for many. A woman worth hundreds millions going ballistic on a puny judge being relayed to the world on TV? Please.
Still, Williams will be celebrated. Her choleric moment will be portrayed as a triumph for equal pay for equal work. Which is kinda’ funny, because women winners get the same prize money playing best-of-three sets while men must endure best-of-five. You won’t see that in a Nike ad.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand will be available this fall.