AuthorZirin, Dave

The word "revanchist" is defined as a person "advocating or fighting for the recovery of lost territory or status." Right now, the sports world is seeing a full-scale revanchist wave.

The people fighting for the "recovery of lost territory or status" are a motley crew of franchise owners, league commissioners, and alienated fans. They are attempting to recover the ground gained by athletes--particularly but not exclusively Black and brown athletes--during the pandemic sports season of 2020.

A year of pre-vaccination COVID-19 put team owners over a barrel. Playing games posed serious health risks, so owners granted concessions. The old rules did not apply. To survive financially, the owners needed to broadcast some form of game and get that commercial cash, no matter the distortions, no matter the empty seats.

The police murder of George Floyd further shifted the power dynamic in favor of the players. Players took to the streets as well as social media to demand not only justice but also the right to use their platform as athletes to claim political leadership.

They used their hyper-exalted, brought-to-you-by-Nike stage to speak out for "equality," "justice," and, as the NBA branded on its courts, "Black Lives Matter." Even the NFL was declaring in its end zones that "End Racism" was a goal of the league.

Poems and paeans pronounced that we had entered a new era of "athlete activism." It was led by Black athletes and it used the all-American institution of sports to help dismantle that other all-American institution of racism. Those dreams now seem to have been about as naive as the idea that Joe Biden would usher us into a new era of bipartisanship.

The fantasy of sports being an authentic voice for social justice has crashed onto the rocks of reality. Instead of a flowering of acceptance for athletes having a say in the world, we have revanchism: the efforts by rightwing elements to reclaim "lost territory or status."

They want "shut up and play" to remain the order of the day. They want to let the workers know who's the boss.

The NFL and NBA have removed their anti-racist branding and sloganeering from the court. The International Olympic Committee has vowed to enforce its infamous Rule 50, preventing any political speech on Olympic property. It even went out of its way to say that "Black Lives Matter" apparel would be disallowed on Olympic grounds. And sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, who is Black, was barred from the Tokyo Olympics after...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT