Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard’s threat to boycott Oklahoma State raised a couple of questions I’d been pondering.
Will American sports ever be a unifying cultural force again?
Or has the Colin Kaepernick Woke Movement permanently polarized games that used to bring us together across political, racial and economic lines?
I’d never heard of One America News Network until yesterday, until Hubbard briefly opened cancel-culture proceedings against his head coach, Mike Gundy.
Hubbard, via Twitter, claimed offense to a picture of Gundy wearing an OAN T-shirt while on a private fishing trip with his son. The Heisman Trophy candidate and nation’s leading rusher in 2019, threatened to boycott all future school activities until Gundy and Okie State “CHANGE.”
Chuba tweeted: “I will not stand for this… This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”
Two of Chuba’s senior teammates tweeted support of their teammates’ stance. Oklahoma State’s athletics department issued a statement Monday that raised speculation the school might take action against their $5 million-a-year coach and former star quarterback.
And then, suddenly, a video appeared on social media with Gundy and Hubbard standing side by side promising to change the culture at OSU. Hubbard apologized for tweeting criticism toward Gundy rather than talking to Gundy man to man. Gundy, for his part, acknowledged that these are sensitive times
As best I can tell, OAN is a right-wing news network that unapologetically supports President Donald Trump. I would have to assume that when Hubbard referenced “everything going on in society” he is referring to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the liberal-controlled city of Minneapolis and liberal-controlled state of Minnesota.
I’m going to break some troubling news to Chuba and his teammates. If they read this, I hope they’re sitting down.
American football coaches have traditionally been conservative philosophically. This dates back to Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, George Halas, Amos Alonzo Stagg and the letter Bill Belichick wrote endorsing Donald Trump. I don’t know exactly who these men voted for or their political voting record, I do know in general terms the most successful football coaches have tended to be conservative.
The little-league coach who drove a lot of us to practice when our parents couldn’t and took us to McDonald’s afterward, more than likely he was conservative, too. Guess what? Many of these same coaches were policemen working with the Police Athletic League.
The foundation and support system for football was built primarily by conservative, religious men. Maybe they all voted for George McGovern and are now the financial backers of Antifa.
But the guys who turned football into the industry that has created more black male millionaires than any other were and are far more likely to vote for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
College professors and Twitter-activists are unlikely to tell Hubbard and his teammates these verifiable facts.
Or maybe Hubbard would like for college football to be run by the white liberals who run the lily white college campuses and the Hollywood music and movie industries? Those white liberals all watch MSNBC and CNN, but they don’t employ very many black men beyond a few tokens to keep up appearances.
Let me break some more troubling news to the Canadian expat running back. His behavior toward Gundy mimicked the intolerant attitude of white bigots who attempt to relegate people who don’t look like them or think like them to an inferior status.
Supporting Trump or a conservative news outlet is not a criminal offense (I don’t participate in politics or watch cable news). It’s not even a sign of immorality. It’s a political tactic, strategy, position, or belief that is every American’s constitutional right.
I’d bet more than 70 percent of the fans inside Oklahoma State’s football stadium on a Saturday and an even higher percentage of the OSU athletic department boosters support President Trump and don’t have a problem with OAN.
Donald Trump won 65 percent of the vote in the state of Oklahoma in 2016, when Chuba was a high school student in Canada. Chuba chose Oklahoma State and hardcore Trump Country over Oregon, Washington State, Colorado, Hawaii, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Iowa State, just to name a few.
What he did is emotional, immature and bigoted. It’s exactly the kind of behavior social media promotes. He’s a hero on Twitter. His tweet, which he did not remove, has received more than 100,000 likes and more than 24,000 retweets. He’s on the kind of social-media dopamine high that would make Bubbles from The Wire jealous.
Hubbard is following the lead of NFL star Malcolm Jenkins, who parlayed his attack of Drew Brees into a lucrative part-time job as a CNN racial commentator. Over social media, Jenkins criticized Brees last week for saying he’d never agree with anyone who disrespected the American flag. Monday CNN announced they’d signed Jenkins to a talking-head contract.
Going viral for smearing someone close to you for “racial insensitivity” is the quickest route to brand relevance and social-media traction.
A handful of black athletes are the new Instagram Models. Hot women built cash-generating, influencer followings with booty shots and twerk gifs.
Now we have a few opportunistic athletes cashing in on the tragic death of George Floyd. “Speaking out” via social media is male twerking, except it’s less honest.
Jen Selter never lied about why she put her ass on display. Straight cash, homie. Brittany Renner never advertised her bundle of booty as a weapon in the women’s rights movement.
These male twerkers? They’re fighting the oppression of a coach wearing a T-shirt they don’t like or a quarterback saying he would disagree with someone protesting during the playing of the national anthem.
Sports used to be relatively free of divisive politics. No one cared about anyone’s presidential politics. Athletes, coaches and fans put aside their point-of-view differences and played, coached and enjoyed the games.
That appears to be over. Social media’s hooks are so deep inside the brains of athletes and the mainstream media that sports are going to be as divisive as politics.
Hubbard is a kid. I understand his error. He’s following the lead of grown men. I feel sorry for the kids and the men caught in the snare of Twitter and Instagram. They are primarily well-intentioned. It’s just the smartphones and social media apps we love are designed to tap into our emotions, create an addiction and drive us all to see each other as potential fodder for our personal brands.
We’re all hooked. The cell phone is the new cigarette. Dopamine, the pleasure chemical our brain releases when we get positive affirmation through social media, is the new nicotine.
Social media is the cancer killing sports. It’s the cancer dividing locker rooms and America. Like cancer, we may never discover a cure. This is a tragedy.
From Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson to Bill Russell to Michael Jordan, sports served as a vehicle to unite us and explain the value in embracing our differences. Sports proved the strength of our melting pot, our ability to be unique while working together toward a common goal.
Now we cancel teammates, coaches and colleagues who don’t share our views. It’s un-American.