The Burden of a Catholic Sports Fan

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In latest cultural battleground, Catholics have a responsibility to defend faith and common sense

“Our long comfortable words save modern people the toil of reasoning.” -G.K. Chesterton

Sports are the great uniter. At least they used to be. These days, amidst a social and cultural climate rife with gunfights that occur with each new disagreement of race, religion, and politics, sports are fast becoming just the latest battlefield to push an agenda or espouse an ideology.

Granted, it’s not all bad. Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s head football coach and one of my favorite people in university athletics, recently laid out a great case for how football brings people together and teaches valuable life lessons about discipline, teamwork, and patriotism. But Swinney, who has been targeted in the past by secular and atheist self-interest groups for his outspoken Christian faith, is one of the few people willing to engage in meaningful discourse when it comes to cultural disagreements that make their way onto our playing fields.

This lack of discourse has reached troubling proportions in recent weeks, in the process forcing its way into the vernacular of those who would aggressively push a secular agenda spearheaded by a powerful central government.

Such is the case after the NBA made good on its threat to withdraw the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte on account of North Carolina’s H.B. 2 law. At first known colloquially as the “Bathroom Bill,” the law continues to be misrepresented as a measure that legalizes discrimination against the LGBT community. And based on the media reaction, the NBA’s decision to pull the game was almost universally applauded as a victory for basic civil rights.

The problem with this viewpoint is that it presupposes the idea that the law was dreamed up as nothing more than an oppressive measure meant to punish the LBGT community. Such an idea is nonsense: H.B. 2 has a valid premise, which, namely, is to protect the privacy and civil rights of citizens who wish to use restrooms and locker rooms of their biological gender.

There are, of course, valid reasons for the government to confer this protection to citizens. That the bill was enacted in order to override a Charlotte ordinance allowing use of public restrooms according to one’s “gender identity” showed a considerate nuance for the interpretation of language in law. Transsexual is not transgender; in other words, the ordinance left open the possibility of abuse—not by actual transgender individuals, but by those who would use the term as a defensive screen while engaging in sexual predation. Additionally, Jane Clarke Schale notes the hypocrisy of a country which encourages the university epidemic of creating “safe spaces” while forcing potentially trigger-laden situations upon citizens who would feel uncomfortable using a restroom or shower with someone of the opposite biological gender.

The NBA statement speaks volumes about the mindset behind those cheering the league’s decision to abandon Charlotte in that it considers none of these concerns. In fact, the de facto non-recognition of these concerns (which gave rise to the bill) has fueled the aggressive wave of “anti-LGBT” labeling that the left has conferred on those who support H.B. 2.

It’s laughably ironic that the NBA notes a “willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view” in the statement.  This is clearly a fluffy fallacy of the highest order. If the NBA had really been willing to consider opposing views, it would have noted that H.B. 2 ensures that schools and public administrative buildings within North Carolina have single-occupancy restrooms available for use, regardless of whichever gender one identifies as. The league would have also noted that the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the game would have been played, has a number of these single-occupancy restrooms.

Of course, it’s possible (probably even likely) that the league considered these reasonable compromises and rejected them in favor of pushing a discriminating secular agenda in step with prevailing cultural forces; forces which have trumpeted unlimited variations of sexual expression as America’s new religion. The NBA would not be the first business to adopt close-minded rhetoric when defending its decisions—just last week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo became the subject of legal action because of New York’s use of anti-North Carolina ads designed to attack H.B. 2. When confronted about the ads, which made no mention of the attempts of the law to accommodate all parties, Cuomo’s spokesperson used divisive rhetoric: ““It would be funny if the issues we were actually talking about did not involve human rights and basic equality.”

Uh, excuse me? Basic equality? Can we as a country have a discussion about what that actually means? If any party is unwilling to have a discussion, it’s the left.

Unfortunately, this kind of political rhetoric, which skirts discourse, compromise, and common sense, has made its way firmly into the sports world. And, unlike politics, where there is some degree of variation in the viewpoints presented by the media, sports fans are not being exposed to both sides of the story. In fact, since governor Pat McCrory rebuked the rash actions of the NBA on July 21st, I have yet to see any major sports figure or media member consider the side of the H.B. 2 supporters. Of course, given the case of former ESPN personality Curt Schilling, it’s not hard to see why individuals would be afraid to speak up for a law that confirms rational thinking.

Recently, another North Carolinian called on Americans to engage in a substantive conversation when it came to a hot-button issue that has made its way into the sports world: Race. Yet where Michael Jordan was (mostly) applauded for saying he could “no longer stay silent” when it came to tensions between black men and police, American sports fans, media, and athletes are unwilling to confer the same approval to those who would encourage a dissenting voice against the left-leaning interest-group agendas that have infected the sports world.

Perhaps, as Schilling’s lesson shows us, there is risk in lending a voice to the debate, especially in a cultural climate that punishes a real diversity of opinion. Yet it is a burden, as Catholic fans, media, and athletes, that we must bear. Otherwise, we will not just lose our ability to defend the tenants of faith and reason in public, we will lose access to the games and sporting events which help to unite us despite our differences.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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Adam Nettina is a freelance writer and graduate student studying creative writing at Abilene Christian University.

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