There’s this theory that sports is supposed to be some apolitical wonderland, a place where Republicans and Democrats alike can come together for a common rooting interest, leaving thorny questions of politics at the entry gates. It’s all nonsense, of course; sports and politics are inextricably intertwined, from the national anthem to NFL players kneeling, from tearful military reunions to … well, to endorsing political candidates.
But even in an era where politics seeps into every conversation we have now — seriously, just say the word “Trump” in a public place and see what happens — the Nashville Predators have appeared to break new ground with a definitive, team-supported endorsement of a political candidate.
Nashville Predators President and CEO Sean Henry, with the help of team mascot Gnash, has offered up an endorsement of Mayor David Briley in an upcoming special election, and Briley’s campaign has posted the endorsement on Twitter:
“I want to urge everyone to get out and vote,” Henry says in the video. “I also want to let Smashville know that we’re supporting Mayor David Briley, and we hope that you join us for that as well. But regardless of who you vote for, get out and vote. Make your voice heard.”
Briley is one of 13 candidates running to fill out the final year of former mayor Megan Barry, who resigned earlier this year. Briley is a progressive figure in a progressive city. Briley also happens to be the current head of a city government that the Predators are negotiating with regarding a longer-term lease at Bridgestone Arena. Make of those facts what you will.
“I’m glad we don’t just stick to sports,” Henry told The Tennessean. “I’m glad that we can leverage the attention that people have for our logo, to take things that we think are important moving forward.”
Look, you know how this works: if you’re in support of the particular political topic at issue, you’re fine with politics in sports; the moment the other side has its say, you start demanding that the team and its players “stick to sports.” It’s tribal, it’s natural, and it’s typical, if more than a little dysfunctional.
But it’s also worth noting that the team has every right to do this. If the Predators have decided that they’re interested in influencing the outcome of the mayoral race / courting supporters of Briley / currying favor with the Briley administration, that’s certainly their choice. They’re apparently willing to call the bluff of fans opposed to this kind of politicization, and they’ll surely hear about it. If we’ve learned nothing else these last two years or so, it’s this: there’s no escaping politics anywhere in your life, and there are plenty of people who’ll yell no matter what you do.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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