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When Did the Sports Pages Get More Liberal Than the News?

Most of us read a newspaper’s sports pages for a respite from the generally depressing news of the day, and there was once a time when we could even expect a conservative outlook from most sports reporters. But those days are long gone. For some reason, today’s sportswriters are, if anything, farther to the left than their brethren in the news room. Moreover, some of the most obnoxious, far-left news reporters are former sports writers.

Which brings us to gay marriage. Here in Minnesota, gay marriage has been a contentious issue. Last year, there was a pro-traditional marriage amendment on the ballot. It failed, and a week or two ago, our Democrat-controlled legislature enacted a law recognizing gay marriage. During the 2012 campaign, a punter for the Minnesota Vikings, Chris Kluwe, was an outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage. He gave speeches, appeared on television, and so on. Our sports reporters unanimously applauded him for his “courage,” but why, since he received nothing but applause for his outspoken stance?

Kluwe was an expensive, aging punter, and the Vikings drafted a punter and released him. Which brings us to today’s most clicked-on story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: Adrian Peterson was asked about gay marriage.

Peterson, unlike Kluwe, is a superstar, the best running back in the NFL. But why his views on gay marriage should be newsworthy is a mystery. Nevertheless, the subject came up when he was interviewed on SiriusXM NFL Radio. This is how the Star Tribune breathlessly reported the interview:

[W]hen asked about the Vikings’ release of punter Chris Kluwe earlier this month, Peterson didn’t steer around the obligatory request for comment on Kluwe’s activism in favor of gay rights and marriage equality.

When a sportswriter refers to “marriage equality” with a straight face you know where he is coming from.

Said the reigning league MVP: “To each his own. I’m not with it. But I have relatives that are gay. I’m not biased towards them. I still treat them the same. I love them. But again, I’m not with that. That’s not something I believe in. But to each his own.”

That is about as mild a comment on gay marriage as you can imagine; yet, Peterson failed to toe the party line. He continued by praising Chris Kluwe:

I’m sure the Vikings organization did not release him based on that. They know Kluwe. They’ve been knowing him for a long time. And they know he’s outspoken. But it hurt me to see him leave. He was a good friend of mine and a really cool guy, man. Probably one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around, man. Different.

Here, Peterson echoed the unanimous press line on Kluwe–he was extraordinarily brilliant, once he came out in favor of gay marriage, despite having been known mostly as a video gamer until then. However, while Kluwe’s enthusiastic endorsement of “marriage equality” was entirely uncontroversial and unanimously praised, Peterson’s mild demurrer–”to each his own”–strikes our local sports reporter as subversive, even dangerous:

Is it outrageous for Peterson to speak candidly on the gay marriage topic? No. Is it a bit dangerous, potentially stirring up an unwanted storm? Absolutely.

The reporter puts Peterson’s comments in the context of recent news stories:

The topic of acceptance and tolerance of gay athletes has been on the front burner recently, particularly after NBA big man Jason Collins came out last month, becoming the first pro athlete in any of the four major sports to reveal his homosexuality while still active.

For what it’s worth, Collins’s career is at its end, and if he catches on with an NBA team next year, it will likely be as a result of his “coming out.”

Collins’ announcement generated an impressive wave of support. But the question still looms as to just how ready a men’s professional sports locker room is for an openly gay player. If and when the first NFL player follows Collins’ lead and reveals his homosexuality, how will that be accepted?

Peterson’s remarks hint at some of the hurdles that remain.

Really? Note how any distinction between being indifferent to a teammate’s sexual practices and supporting gay marriage is casually obliterated. Peterson addressed the latter issue, and said nothing about the former, apart from the fact that he “loves” his gay relatives and is “not biased toward them.” But that isn’t good enough: in the world of today’s sports journalism, enthusiastic endorsement of homosexuality and gay marriage is the only non-controversial–heck, non-hateful–option. Our reporter concludes with this bit of condescension:

Yes, Peterson remains one of the NFL’s true good guys, a likeable superstar, who was also the Vikings Community Man of the Year in 2012. He is at once down to earth and giving of his time. And in his interview with Murray and Toomer, he made clear his intentions to deliver financial aid and a personal helping hand to the tornado ravaged parts of Oklahoma, where he went to college.

And no, Peterson’s answer to the Kluwe question doesn’t register as malicious or overtly intolerant. But it will almost certainly become a source of debate.

Got that? If you don’t toe the pro-gay marriage line, you are presumptively malicious and intolerant–in Peterson’s case, the sportswriter admits, not “overtly” so. This is the kind of biased, mindless claptrap that we expect from newspaper editorialists. Why on God’s green Earth do we have to put up with it in the sports pages?

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