Let’s be real here, readers. The world is changing in front of very eyes. Especially from a political standpoint. We’re being forced to have more difficult and uncomfortable conversations about politics. Economics. Human rights. Race. Equality. Shove that all in a social media blender and hit “Frappe”, and we basically get 2017’s version of the Internet. I watch the news every day at work, and… it’s hard not to made completely miserable by the next story of terrorism, Brexit, or whatever the fucking Cheeto-In-Chief has planned next.
For many people, sports was and is still to a lot of people, the pleasant distraction from those things. I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that those entities people think are separate, are starting to blend together, and it’s making a lot of folks feel awkward.
I’m of the opinion that sports can be inspiring, empowering things. But they’re also full of every social, economic and set of political problems you can think of. And I’m having to stop and think about this more as time goes on.
I’m a massive NFL fan, and I was right in the middle of it when San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, kneeled instead of standing during the National Anthem. He did it as a person of colour in America, who was protesting against the systemic racism that America has, as well as police brutality, as evidenced by multiple cases of white police officers shooting innocent people of colour. When questioned, Colin had reasonable answers for the press, as well as pledging to donate $1,000,000 towards charitable groups working to stop these issues.
What annoyed me most, was that people seemed to debate Kaepernick’s method of protest a hell of a lot more than the actual issues he was addressing. “He’s disrespecting the National Anthem!” “He’s insulting the troops!” “He should have chosen a different protest!” – Drew friggin Brees, the Saints Quarterback and face of New Orleans, said that last one. Way to miss the point, you guys. Like a protest is meant to be low-key or something.
What made it crazier was, it spilled over into Motorsport, with Tony Stewart and Graham Rahal directly, or indirectly throwing shade towards Kaepernick. I mean, let’s be real here, Stewart was never going to go against the cops given his… ahem… history. And Rahal is a massive backer of the military, and his team – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, donates towards a military charity every year. So of course, anything compromising that was going to raise a reaction from two very vocal figures in American Motorsport… So it made us have a conversation about it on the Podcast, where I expressed my deep disappointment in the short-sighted nature of their comments.
This was essentially the first time I can remember the Podcast talking deeply and at length about something that had very little to do with Motorsport, and more with the world as a whole from a cultural and political standpoint. I loved it. Wanted to make it a more regular thing. I took pride in having those sort of conversations that other shows wouldn’t touch.
I had to deal with this again in February around the Superbowl. Sure, the New England Patriots won, but I had to deal with its three most prolific figures; Bill Belichick (Head Coach), Robert Kraft (Owner) and Tom Brady (Quarterback), all have to deal with public friendship and affiliation with Donald Trump. Brady was ignorantly and naive, dancing out of the subject, despite having a “Make America Great Again” cap in his locker room. I had to deal with supporting a sports team that was actively leaning right, against my political stance as a left-leaning liberal. Difficult. And I got panned for it. Angry comments and emails. That’s when I promised to not, Stick to Sports.
Why? Because simply put, there’s no differentiating them anymore. Sports IS politics. So hold onto your nuts, because the era of ignoring this is dead. From the NFL and how awful it treats things like head trauma, domestic violence, opioid addiction and… well just about everything else. To how Brexit is going to affect our daily lives, and our sports.
Heck, I’m, a goddamn F1 fan. Politics makes up the fabric of all the talking points we see on and off the track. Mercedes dominance, and their desperation to keep it in the wake of the hybrid era. Elimination qualifying. The fact Ferrari gets $90m a year just for showing up and disappointing people every year. The racing ain’t great. Politics is all we have left.
I’m a human being. I like to think I’m pretty compassionate. I can enjoy sports, as well as be open in talking about the world issues they can (and mostly do), present. Don’t tell RJ this, but I was so proud of how he handled the announcement of Danny Watts being gay – Probably the highest-profile case of his kind. For a good 10 minutes, he spoke about Danny with sympathy, compassion, pride, and support. That’s the kind of show I’m proud to say we have. I want everyone on Motorsport101 to feel like they can say what they have to say in confidence, and as human beings. Because how are we ever going to progress in life if we keep ducking the difficult questions?
How can we make Motorsport more inclusive to women? To people of colour? To anyone in the LBGT community, moreover, how can we stop fans being so dismissive on the subject? How can we make it more accessible to the poor who want to climb the ladder? How do we stop it from being a Factory wankfest, and open the door for more competition, and for customer support, the backbone of any series? I’d rather try to answer those questions, then talk about Lewis Hamilton getting his fucking dog’s sperm frozen.
So yeah, let it be known. Motorsport101 will not stick to sports. There are 100 other Podcasts out there you can listen to if you want race reviews and opinions. You listen to us because of the people we are. That’s our backbone. It makes the show what it is. If that upsets you, I understand, but I fear in 2017 – The only way you’re avoiding the world via sports, is by sending yourself to the boom or burying yourself in the ground.
It’s a different, difficult world out there. Let’s make the most of it.