It’s not common to hear the phrase “leave the politics out of my sports” in comment threads all over the internet. And this sentiment makes sense on a macro level — the world feels extremely chaotic right now and the idea of slipping away from reality to enjoy a football game is like a warm bath of comfort.
The NFL has had some backlash over the past couple of season for being “too political” with the protests to police brutality. And the NFL has paid the price with many fans turning their backs in record numbers.
However, as much as we wish the existence of the Los Angeles Rams was an apolitical thing that didn't have any connection to reality... it’s just not true.
Everything is political. Football is political. Right now, the Rams are political.
The LA Rams are currently facing the realities of two events head-on that have major political ramifications — a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California that was roughly four miles from their practice facility and significant wildfires that are ravaging the same area, displacing thousands from their homes and even making it so that the Rams can’t practice.
#Rams coach Sean McVay says there will be a moment of silence on Sunday to recognize those killed in the tragic Thousand Oaks shooting. There may be some additional remembrance.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 8, 2018
This is going to be a big part of their season personally, beyond the wins and losses that comes from the games.
Though Coach Sean McVay gave out the tried and true “thoughts and prayers” line for reporters, he then said something a little more revealing:
“It’s something that makes you step back and gives you a perspective,” McVay said. “I know me personally, I’m very guilty of losing perspective, because you’re just in your own little world and it’s all football, all the time, and then you have things like this that occur and re-gather your priorities and your perspective on what’s really important, and (serve as a reminder to) not to get bent out of shape on some of the things that maybe I tend to do, just being in the role that I’m in.”
McVay doesn’t feel like a guy who is going to say anything close to political at all, so just the admission that he’s been rattled by this tragedy is telling. The Rams are part of this community and it’s not always going to be about football. LT Andrew Whitworth had this to say about the shooting in Thousand Oaks that left 13 people dead.
“I just don’t believe that sitting there wondering is the best way,” Whitworth said. “Find a way to put your feet on the ground and take action and get involved in some way.”
Whitworth is basically saying that the team feels for the community and wants to offer their love and support. There’s a level of horror that these players are feeling about the death toll that struck so close to their home at the same time that many of these players have been forced to evacuate their own homes due to the fires.
I wonder if, and this is a big if, the players’ rage and feeling of helplessness will extend to a bigger step in becoming more proactive in making change in their community.
Here’s my story on the Rams’ reaction to the Thousand Oaks mass shooting. Andrew Whitworth and others want to take action: https://t.co/fh4efrBK9m— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) November 9, 2018
Gun control is obviously a topic that the NFL wants no part of — it would alienate even more fans in a negative way and I’m sure Roger Goodell is begging every player to say “thoughts and prayers” and move on. But as the Rams players step forward to become part of the recovery effort, they are going to see first-hand how devastating this tragedy really was. And to be clear: I’m not saying that Rams players are going to be pushing for stricter gun control because a mass shooting happened near them; but for change to happen, community leaders need to feel the effects of a problem and right now, the Rams are horrified by what happened in their home town, which is also coincidentally a raging inferno.
The effects of climate change has struck once again in the southland, burning up acres of land, including many of the homes of the coaches and players for the Rams. But this is just part of living in Southern California, right? Well, it didn’t used to be, but things change. And maybe the next thing to change will be more players speaking up about it.
Owners, NFL executives, and many fans don’t want the players to speak up because of the simple truth that it’s messy. Toes will get stepped on. But we’re already down the rabbit-hole — maybe toes should get stepped on until the chaos slows down.
The world is on fire and it’s not a game anymore. Meanwhile, the LA Rams are right in the middle of it.