Remember when all your local sports team had to worry about was winning games and selling tickets? Now they are also expected to be political activists as well.
Case in point is what is happening in Tampa Bay. As is vogue these days, Confederate statues and memorials are being removed as quickly as ISIS obliterates pieces of history in Syria. And what Confederate memorials and statues still remain on public property are living on borrowed time.
All this takes us to the grounds near the Hillsborough County Courthouse to a statue that was dedicated in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the Civil War called Memoria in Aeterna. The north-facing side of the memorial shows a young Confederate soldier marching off to war appearing confident; the south-facing side shows a soldier returning from the war, appearing beaten and worse for wear and using his musket as a cane.
For now, at least, but under increasing pressure, the County Commissioners have voted to allow Memoria in Aeterna to stay. This prompted Tampa’s Mayor Bob Buckhorn to declare, “There is no honor in treason, and there is no valor in enslaving people because of their race. That statue represents the worst of humanity, not the Tampa that we aspire to be.” One would caution the Mayor on the treason talk. After all, history is a fine line. A lost battle here or there during the Revolutionary War, and our history books would be describing Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams et al. as traitors.
The Civil War, including the era leading up to it and Reconstruction, is an important and fascinating period of American history where a lot of noble and not so noble things happened on all sides, and the era’s impact still reverberates today. My concern with the current trend of removing all things Confederate is it robs an often ignorant public of any understanding of how others felt about the conflict and its human, tragic dimension. Lincoln’s words in his second inaugural, “With malice to none and charity to all,” helped heal a nation. The current remove-or-else movement seems, at the heart of it, to be driven by malice, the very thing the soon to be martyred Lincoln advocated avoiding.
So how and why does this impact the local professional sports teams? One would hope not at all, as all I really want my local sports team to worry about is winning games and entertaining me, the fan. And this, along with maximizing revenue and turning a profit, is really all your local sports team wants to work on also. But in this day and age, liberals demand that all business, including sports teams, be socially responsible, which in their minds mean they must be politically correct.
As you can imagine, demands to get sports teams involved in politics can place them in awkward and pointless situations. For instance, do the Chicago Bears really need to have an articulated position on climate change? Nevertheless, the “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” as Spiro Agnew described the media, dutifully went out to the local sports teams seeking their opinion on the Memoria in Aeterna.
Their opinions were all over the map, and you can envision the teams practically squirming in their seats as they answered. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have yet to comment. The Tampa Bay Rays took a hard line. “We understand and believe that these decisions belong in the hands of elected officials,” the Rays’ statement said. “At the same time, we are supportive of its removal from the courthouse.” While on the other hand, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a softer tone. “We believe this important decision should rest with the county commissioners that have been elected to represent us and our county.”
No matter what position the teams took, or refused to take, they were forced to offend many of their fans, depending how each individual feels about the situation. I’m sure the teams would rather have not been involved in any of this in the first place. After all, they are just sports teams, not a Congress.
As for me, when it comes to sports teams and memorials, I say leave them both alone.