The argument that we should “keep politics out of sports” and therefore that LeBron James should “shut up and dribble” or Colin Kaepernick has a right to protest just “not that way” is garbage. Not only is it brazenly reactionary — calls to keep politics out of sports are noticeably absent from white supremacists when the politics being advocated are not explicitly anti-white supremacist, such as when Kaepernick or James speak out against police violence against Black people — it also ignores that the owners of sports teams have long intertwined sports with politics. It’s no coincidence that the same cartel of league owners who blackballed Colin Kaepernick, by and large, supports politics that are opposed to his.
We see in this chart, originally from this article at FiveThirtyEight, which also includes raw numbers showing tens of millions of dollars in political donations from ownership within these leagues, that politics and sports are already enmeshed. In fact, just being a sports fan and supporting a team is a political act. When you buy a ticket to see a game, a percentage of the money you spend is being diverted to politics. And, as the above chart shows, it’s mostly going to Republicans. You simply cannot contribute money or attention to these teams and then demand that sports and politics be separated. You have already committed a political act just by being a fan and supporting a team or league, and chances are that your political act has been to support Republicans.
When people advocate to “keep politics out of X,” or the more nakedly white supremacist/patriarchal “keep identity politics out of X,” they’re generally being hypocritical and you can ignore that argument. This is true in sports, entertainment, science, games, art, and pretty much everywhere. Politics is ubiquitous. People have political beliefs, and in the case of sports moguls, they also financially support political causes with the very money sports fans spend to attend sporting events and buy team merchandise. Don’t get tricked into complying with anyone’s disingenuous calls to keep politics out of something, because odds are that person’s politics are already there.