It’s been said a time or two that 2016 is a year that will be remembered for mostly all the wrong reasons. As we’ve noted before, it just wasn’t our best showing as a nation.
America is still rife with turmoil as the calendar year comes to a close, and as a country, we are as politically, socially and economically estranged from one another as we’ve seemingly ever been. Obviously that has spilled over into other parts of our lives. That’s the way it goes.
SportsGrid is a site that generally tries to celebrate the funnier side of sports, and most of the time that is very easy to do. Who is better at looking for the silver lining than sports fans? The nature of being a sports fan involves being disappointed on a regular basis, so it’s important to lighten the mood for time to time.
On the other hand, we try not to make a habit of ignoring the larger picture. Sports often finds itself intersecting with other aspects of society. Sometimes those crossovers are adorable, uplifting or inspiring; and sometimes they most definitely are not. Sexism, racism, homophobia and various other societal prejudices have found permanent homes in our sports culture, and those are issues that cannot be ignored.
So whether warm and fuzzy or dark and disturbing, there were a multitude of times that real life crossed into our bubble and demanded our attention.
Here are 17 important moments when the real world crossed over into sports in 2016:
1. RAPE CULTURE & SPORTS: We Need To Keep Talking About Why Brock Turner Essentially Got Away With Rape
Excerpt: “We need to harp on the fact that this case was the rare, open-and-shut rape case. A rape case will never be more clear cut than this one was. Never. Do not lose sight of just how incredibly egregious that is. Because when judge Aaron Persky stated that Turner’s positive character references and lack of a criminal record had persuaded him to be more lenient – and determined that anything more than six months in prison would have a ‘severe impact on him’ – he did so as a full participant in rape culture, misogyny and white-male privilege.”
2. ANIMAL ADOPTION & SPORTS: Ravens 1st Round Draft Pick Adopts A Dog That No One Wanted
Excerpt: “This is just one young family and one one dog, but it makes all the difference in the world to know that a young man who is on the precipice of an incredibly lucrative career is taking advantage of his opportunity to make a difference. Not only did he save the life of a beautiful girl that no one else wanted, but as a celebrity in the community, he has undoubtedly motivated others to do the same.”
3. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & SPORTS: We Should Talk About Johnny Manziel The Way We Talked About Greg Hardy
Excerpt: “This is a cut and dry case of the same type of psychotic and possibly deadly violence that Greg Hardy was lambasted for in the aftermath of revealing documents and photos of his beating of ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder….
Meanwhile, the focus of the mainstream media’s critcism of Manziel has remained a rallying cry for him to “stop partying” and “get his act together” and “get in rehab”…
But the fact of the matter is that he is no different than Hardy…He’s not just a spoiled alcoholic frat boy with a bad work ethic. He’s someone who is mentally and emotionally disturbed, and needs to be treated as such.”
4. RACISM IN SPORTS MEDIA: Saturday Night Live’s Scathing Send-Up Of Racist NFL Media Coverage
Excerpt: “[Saturday Night Live] re-wrote the lyrics of “Ebony and Ivory” to provide searing commentary on the harsh reality of the racism that has surrounded media coverage of the NFL all season and has been particularly egregious in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50.
The brilliant sketch features Keenan Thompson as Cam Newton and Taran Killam as Peyton Manning, musically pontificating on the vastly different manners in which they are viewed and treated by NFL media and even fans.”
5. PATRIARCHY & SPORTS: Bruce Arians Wants To Stop Moms From Ruining Football
Excerpt: “[Arians stated] that football is under attack, and that coaches have to get through to those pesky moms who don’t want their kids to suffer brain damage.
‘We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked and we got to stop it at the grass roots,’ he said. It’s the best game that’s ever been f—ing invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message, because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.'”
6. COMEDY & SPORTS: Peyton Manning Burns Tom Brady With DeflateGate Joke At Comedy Central Roast
Excerpt: “Featuring David Spade as the Roast Master, the dais consisted of mostly comedians with a few representatives of other entertainment genres; one of which was the Papa John’s commercial guru. And what would Peyton Manning at a Comedy Central roast be without a Tom Brady DeflateGate joke? It was bound to happen.”
7. POLITICS & SPORTS: Curt Schilling Calls Stephen A. Smith A ‘Racist’, Declines Debate Offer … Then Endorses Trump
Excerpt: “On Monday, Stephen A. [Smith] challenged Schilling to just such a debate. But today, Schilling declined. And in the process, he called [Smith] a racist…
‘He’s a racist, I think he’s a bigot. There’s nothing to debate, number one. And number two, there’s not a chance in hell that I would do anything that would bring that station another viewer. Ever.’
But Schilling isn’t having it. After calling SAS a racist and a bigot, he them smoothly transitioned to a post on his blog, where he officially endorsed Donald Trump.”
8. IMMIGRATION & SPORTS: Lou Holtz Goes Off On Immigrants, Their Holidays & Their Soccer Teams
Excerpt: “On Tuesday afternoon, Holtz spoke at the Republican National Coalition for Life, and made some incredibly inflammatory and derogatory remarks about immigrants in the United States. According to Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast, Holtz said the high number of immigrants coming to the U.S. constitutes an “invasion.”
…Holtz added that he believes new immigrants need to assimilate better… As he put it: immigrants have to learn and speak English and “become us.”
9. HEALTHY BODIES & SPORTS: Bizarre ‘USA Today’ OP-Ed Claims Modern MLB Players Are A Bunch Of Fatties
Excerpt: “First of all, anyone reading this that is in any way educated about the health of the human body in 2016 knows that the use of BMI (body mass index) as a definitive indicator of health is all but obsolete. All it does is compare a person’s weight to their height, and the classifications are broad: underweight, normal, overweight and obese…
According to BMI, both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are overweight, with Trout barely below the threshold for obesity. Just about any male or female that you know with above-average muscularity would register as overweight according to BMI. It’s a completely inept and outdated metric.”
10. CRIMINALS & SPORTS: Former NFL Player Says Imprisoned Serial Rapist Darren Sharper Should Be In HOF
Excerpt: “George Wrighster is a former NFL player… In a periscope video recorded and posted on Tuesday afternoon, he expounded on his belief that Sharper should not be excluded for Hall of Fame consideration because there is a long history of criminals and generally horrible people being honored for their contributions to sports.
Now I have no personal problem with Wrighster, and I respect that he is willing to so openly and honestly share an unpopular opinion. But I also happen to believe that his reasoning is guided by an American sports and celebrity culture that is complicit in the propagation of athletes who escape accountability for horrific behavior.”
11. RAPPERS & SPORTS: Condoms Were Not The Most Objectionable Thing On Ludacris’ UGA Rider
Excerpt: “[Also on the list] 12 assorted Minute Maid juice boxes…Because apparently the vodka, tequila, red wine, white wine, coconut water, regular water, Snapple, Gatorade, cognac, green tea, orange juice, cranberry juice and V8 juice just wasn’t quite enough to wash down that sophisticated meal of PB&J, random-ass candies and fruit roll ups.
Honestly, I find the condoms to be the least objectionable part of this entire rider. In fact, they shouldn’t be an issue at all. People have sex. Condoms make that sex safer. They aren’t taboo. They are important.”
12. SEXUAL HARASSMENT & SPORTS: Men React To Disturbing PSA Exposing How Women Are Harassed Online
Excerpt: “One of the most trending topics on the internet today is in response to a PSA – posted by @NotJustSports on Youtube – in which men are asked to read mean tweets out loud to the female sports reporters at whom the tweets are directed…
…The men become increasingly more uncomfortable as the tweets get worse, employing the “c” word, degrading the women and eventually moving onto expressing rape and death wishes.
By the end of the video, just about every one of the men is ready to tear up. Not only are they horrified that they have been put in the position of having to say these things out loud to the women before them, but they seem to be genuinely disturbed by the content of the comments…”
13. RECREATIONAL DRUGS & SPORTS: Steve-O Story Time: Mike Tyson Smoked Entire Joint Full Of Cocaine
Excerpt: “If there were ever a person that I would assume had graduated past the point of just snorting cocaine like everyone else on the planet, I’d assume it were Tyson. Still, if even Steve-O in his junkiest stages of life had never seen anything like it, it must be pretty hard core.
Steve goes on to explain that while they were locked in the bathroom together for three hours getting completely wasted, they temporarily solved racism!”
14. HARAMBE & SPORTS: Sports Media Joins Explosive Debate Over Shooting Of Gorilla At Cincinnati Zoo
Excerpt: “After Saturday night’s thrilling Game 6 between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Klay Thompson’s 11 three-pointers would be the talk of Twitter for the majority of the day. But while it has definitely been on people’s radar, it’s been the tragic death of Harambe the gorilla that has dominated the social media debate table.“
15. LAW ENFORCEMENT & SPORTS: Police Officer Saves Suicidal Man’s Life By Shitting On The Cowboys With Him
Excerpt: “When Officer Michael Blackmore approached a man sitting at the edge of a bridge over a state highway early Saturday morning, he was tasked with engaging the man in friendly, calm conversation to keep him from jumping. Officer Blackmore asked the man if he like football, and the man revealed that that he was a Washington fan…
And just like any good Washington fan, the man mentioned that he hated Dallas; encouraging Officer Blackmore to commiserate as co-members of Anti-Cowboy nation.”
16. RACISM & SPORTS: Rodney Harrison Missed Memo About Colin Kaepernick Being Black
Excerpt: NBC football analyst and former NFL safety Rodney Harrison [speaking about] the Colin Kaepernick saga:
‘I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick, he’s not black. He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every sincle (day) basis…’
A few hours later, Harrison issued an apology via Twitter in which he clarified that he ‘never knew [Kaepernick] was mixed.’
So not only does Harrison believe that non-black people don’t have the right to protest the persecution of black people in America, he also derided the actions and intentions of a man whose life he clearly has absolutely zero knowledge about.”
17. HOMOPHOBIA & SPORTS: Manny Pacquiao Unleashes Astonishing Rant: Gay Couples ‘Are Worse Than Animals’
Excerpt: “Speaking in an internet interview posted Monday, Pacquiao, who is running for a seat in the Philippines senate in May, said that he figures people who live in same-sex relationships ‘are worse than animals.’
Pacquiao, on a video posted to the TV-5 Facebook page:
‘It’s common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women they are worse than animals.’