If there are two sports more ferociously woke than NBA basketball and women’s professional soccer, I am unaware of their existence.
Unfortunately for athletes in these two sports, their commitment to wokeness and the language of equity is increasingly backfiring, so much so that I have found their recent Olympic adventures delectable. They are so rich in Schadenfreude that I am tempted to use a neologism I only just discovered: “Schadenfreudelicious.”
From the first moments after the death of George Floyd, professional basketball players and their league have emitted a constant bleating of support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) narrative, which claims that the situation in America has never been worse for blacks. The league’s biggest star, Lebron James, characterized BLM as a “lifestyle” and, in stupendous ignorance of American history, denied that there had ever been any social movement dedicated to improving the situation of blacks. The NBA’s commitment to the BLM perspective is so complete that at least one player’s agent anonymously observed how this stance has damaged the league’s brand with fans who do not share the movement’s radical leftist worldview.
Not surprisingly, Olympic men’s basketball is in total disarray. Many of the leading lights in the NBA, including James and the equally woke Stephen Curry, felt such a surge of patriotism over the Olympics that they declined to play on the national team.
Lauren Holiday, a former professional soccer player herself and the wife of Jrue Holiday—one of the NBA stars who did sign up for the U.S. Olympic team—publicly and shrilly denounced police as racist for briefly handcuffing her husband when he showed up at the scene, bringing her driver’s license, when she was stopped by police and eventually ticketed for overly tinted windows. Other team members—Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Bam Adebayo—backed BLM’s radical agenda and attended protests. Head coach Gregg Popovich, perhaps the single wokest figure in the NBA, called those who reject BLM “ignorant” and said he felt “embarrassed as a white person” after George Floyd’s death.
Unfortunately, their commitment to BLM didn’t help their game. After losing to Nigeria and Australia in pre-Olympic exhibitions, the Americans opened up the Olympic competition by falling to France. The players are frustrated with Popovich, who vents his own frustrations at reporters after American losses. His record as a coach for Team USA has been remarkably bad, and this year is shaping up to be even worse than the 2004 Olympics for the U.S. team.
All I can say about the American opener in this year’s Games is Vive la France! The loss couldn’t have happened to a better team than this one. Iran is the U.S.’s next opponent, followed by the Czech Republic. More of the same, please!
The women’s national soccer team has also been aggressive in its BLM support, claiming it is “not political” to align itself with an avowedly communist movement that indicts American institutions and social structures as racist.
Furthermore, the team has also pursued a narcissistic legal campaign to have its players paid the same as their male soccer counterparts, despite the fact that the men’s game generates far more revenue globally than the women’s game. Their case was recently dismissed by a district court judge, but the women’s team, in its firm attachment to unreality, has appealed the decision.
How telling that their appeal on the equal pay claim, which is based on their allegedly “superior performance,” came shortly after they were utterly destroyed by Sweden 3-0 in their opening Olympic match. The exquisite loveliness of this lopsided defeat was made more savory by the fact that the Americans demonstrated their contempt for their country by taking a knee to show their allegiance to BLM ideology instead. The Swedish team joined them, but they were not representing my country.
President Donald Trump claimed that the embarrassing loss was due to “wokeism.” Even though that’s unverifiable, there are many Americans who feel the same way about the outcome of the match and about the women’s team in general.
Here’s hoping for an early and disgraceful exit from the games by both the radical American women’s soccer team and its male basketball counterpart.
There was a time when, during the Olympics, the American flag was all it took to win my allegiance to competitors and teams from my country. I feel no joy in noting that those days are over. The country is now so riven by deep cultural and political differences that many find it impossible to identify with the spoiled, wealthy, hyper-woke athletes who purport to represent us. So many of them apparently despise the history, tradition, and fundamental principles of the country that made their wealth and success possible.
Alexander Riley is a professor of sociology at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.