Accuracy in Media

Sports Illustrated claims in a new article that “American Democracy” is being assaulted by both “faith and football.” 

But the article is really just an opinion piece devoid of sports and journalistic merit. 

At issue is a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision now pending, about a high school football coach who prayed privately on the field until his school in Bremerton, Wash., threatened to fire him unless he stopped.  

He didn’t stop. Instead, he publicized the case, chastised the school and prayed more publicly. He got fired as a result.

The case is being fought out by the two sides: The school district being represented by lawyers from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the coach being represented by First Liberty, a law firm that upholds the practice of religion in the public square. 

Far from showing that democracy is in danger, the case highlights how American democracy actually works. 

The two sides are working their way through the legal system as they take the case to the Supreme Court for a decision.  

In reality, the SI article demonstrates how progressive politics is the biggest danger to sports, not public prayer. 

Using loaded progressive le motifs such as “powerful right-wing machine,” “white Christian nationalists,” “white Christian fragility” and rhetoric that blamed “Donald Trump’s presidency, his proposed Muslim ban and anti-immigration stances,” SI hides its attack on “American Democracy” behind “legal scholars” such as Laurence Tribe, the legal adviser to Barack Obama who was appointed to the Department of Justice in 2010 as Obama’s Senior Counselor for Access to Justice, with all the progressive implications of the title.   

That SI goes on to claim that the legal scholars, two of whom refused to be named, plus Tribe and another scholar who described himself as an atheist, “hold no vested interest in the outcome” of the case, shows that SI itself has a vested interest in the outcome of the case. 

What seems to be bothering SI is the same thing that seems to be bothering Laurence Tribe and other progressives.  

Since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, Tribe contends that there has been a “systematic packing of courts with judges” who uphold conservative ideas on prayer. 

Tribe’s rhetoric and SI’s endorsement of it is a strange way of describing a 42-year process where conservatives have taken back control of the courts in the exact manner described under the Constitution after decades of liberal ascendency. 

If anyone is attacking “American Democracy” it’s the progressives when they claim that the mere exercise of power by conservatives in America, as in the case of appointing Supreme Court justices, is always and everywhere an attack on “American Democracy” by white nationalists, who love Donald Trump, hate Muslims and immigrants—legal or illegal. 

SI should stick to sports journalism as one of the last bastions where Americans can unite behind the ideas that make our country great. 

It wasn’t that long ago that Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, relied upon his convictions to sign Jackie Robinson — not just because Robinson was a great player, but because Rickey was an early advocate of civil rights as a devoted religious man who often prayed in the public square. 

That times have evolved and some don’t feel comfortable with prayer that’s done in public is a legitimate question of public interest. 

That the Supreme Court may uphold a long tradition of prayer in the public square- or reject it-  isn’t an attack on democracy, just as SI’s article on the case wasn’t an act of journalism. 

Denying a coach the right to pray on a field privately isn’t the moral equivalent of ensuring a Black man has the equal right to compete on the baseball field. 

And the sooner SI realizes this, the less damage they will do to sports.




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