Who is most responsible for dividing us? Here’s my vote.

Much is made, and rightly so, of the current partisan polarization plaguing the United States. The contentious State of the Union Address was proof enough – we are a very divided people along ideological, political grounds. And both sides are quick to lay blame at the feet of the other for the atmosphere of hostility that permeates the cultural landscape.

Democrats are confident that their part in all of it is merely the result of Donald Trump's scorched-earth politics, his carpet-bombing approach to the public dialogue. "He inspired an attempted coup, so we can't help but return fire," they cry. Pointing to loudmouth pols like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, Democrats defiantly conclude that's the problem.

On the flip side, Republicans are quick to point out that the emergence of Donald Trump was only made possible by the brazenly divisive and bitterly partisan presidency of Barack Obama.

Mr. "Elections have consequences, and I won." Mr. "Republicans can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back." Mr. "We're not just going to wait for legislation… I've got a pen and I've got a phone."

The truth, in this case, is probably somewhere in the middle. Neither political party seems interested in turning down the temperature of our political environment. After all, the more upset people are, the more motivated they will be to give you their money and get out to vote.

But there's a third player in all this that I contend is far more responsible than either of the two strong-willed parties for our volatile climate. And they were exposed this last week by the unlikeliest of characters.

As covered here on Not the Bee, sitting in a press conference, Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka was taking questions about her game. Until bizarrely, if not predictably, she took a question about Ukraine, Russia, and political protests. Even though English is not her native language, she adroitly buried the reporter who asked her to opine on the geo-political realities of the world. In case you missed it:

I've pointed out on a number of occasions the not-so-well-kept-secret that sportswriters are often political journalists who have been unable to crack into that highly competitive field, so they've settled for sports. I once asked someone in the field about all this and they remarked there was a pervasive insecurity among sportswriters. Many feel that they are jokes in the journalist community, and so each is desperately looking for any angle, any opportunity to write a piece that "matters."

First, from a professional standpoint, I find this misguided and unfortunate. Sports isn't trivial; amateur and professional athletic competitions matter. They matter a great deal, in fact. The rivalries, the entertainment, the thrill of victory and agony of defeat, the fun, it all offers a much-needed escape for the exhausted masses. The world is full of tragedy, heartbreak, evil, corruption, and all the other consequences of sin. Being able to find a release from that – a brief moment in time to shut off from the struggle and enjoy sports – is a blessing to millions and millions of people.

There's a reason troops stationed in war zones around the world are desperate for Armed Forces Radio or some special satellite uplink to carry NFL games on the weekends. There's a reason workaholics flock to bars in the evening to drink a beer and catch a game. Sports are important.

Yet perhaps unable to see or appreciate the value of their own field, so many in sports journalism are ruining that very escape for people by intentionally injecting worldly turmoil and partisan politics into the otherwise apolitical activity.

The consequence? Leagues are paying a hefty price for this critical miscalculation. The NFL anthem-kneeling fiasco dented what was once thought to be the impenetrable shell of professional football viewership. People tuned out because they were so turned off over the stance that their team's owner, coach, or players took to the issue.

The NBA experienced much of the same when Black Lives Matter riots beleaguered the country, burning down cities while offering no substantive, discernible goals. The cringeworthy LeBron James interview where he attempted to discuss the Malcolm X biography he claimed to be reading at the time will go down in infamy.

Even the National Hockey League was recently guilted into some ill-advised gay rights extravaganza, attempting to shame players into wearing "Pride" jerseys, with the media stalking anyone who wouldn't. There was simply no reason for any of it.

To be sure, this obviously doesn't mean that an athlete somehow forfeits their right to state an opinion on a particular matter. They certainly have that right should they want to exercise it. But they also should be afforded the right to keep their opinions to themselves and concentrate entirely on their craft. They have a right to not moonlight as social commentators, pretending to offer informed, thoughtful, insightful observations about the latest media-generated crisis.

So hats off to Azarenka for blazing the trail that I hope countless other athletes begin to walk. If sportswriters' desperate allegiance to progressive politics consumes them in misery, so be it. But let the rest of us have our escape.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Not the Bee or any of its affiliates.

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