15 Most Divisive Issues in Sports Right Now
Controversy is no stranger to sports: if success is measured by wins and losses, stats and superlatives; then no possible point of contention goes unnoticed. Like politics and cafeteria lunch specials, everything has two 'sides' in sports.
So, if controversy is synonymous with sports, then divisive issues are everywhere and all around. But, some issues transcend locale and cache. It seems like at any given time, several big issues dominate the headlines in sports; some spanning years, rather than news cycles.
Call them quasi-tropes—divisive issues tied to certain sports, franchises and individuals, which are born from greater problems beyond sports.
However, once an issue in sports is polarized, all arguments boil down to one of two clearly defined sides; one defined as controversial and one as the orthodox position (with an assist from the most influential voices in athletics and the media.)
These are the most divisive issues in sports right now.
NBA/NFL Shouldn't Make College a Requirement
Argument(s) for: Athletes should be able to make their own decisions and control their own likeness. For some, college is all risk with relatively little reward—one freak injury can end a career and they aren’t paid so much as a monthly stipend for their services. Rookie contracts are often structured to minimize risk for teams, which hurts athlete earning power—college can double the amount of time spent between high school and that lucrative second contract.
Argument(s) against: Coming out of high school, most athletes possess neither the maturity nor the physical tools required to play at a high level professionally. Playing at the collegiate level solves that problem, preparing players for the pros while establishing a work ethic and (ideally) keeping them out of trouble, which improves the overall quality of gameplay and their chances to succeed long term.
The Redskins Should Change Their Name
Argument(s) for: Native Americans, who have traveled a rough road in the New World, are unhappy that an NFL football team’s name is an offensive derogatory slur. American Indians are people, not mascots.
Argument(s) against: Tradition? Because Daniel Snyder enjoys being argumentative? Because many non-Native Americans don’t believe the term is offensive to Native Americans? Because it would be too much hassle? Who knows.
Bailing Before Shaking Hands
Argument(s) for: At the professional level, handshake lines are reserved mostly for the playoffs, when emotions are running high. Athletes are expected to give everything they’ve got and compete like warriors in a seven game series, but all that behind them within seconds of a loss? That’s just not natural. And besides, who cares about a stupid handshake line anyway? This isn’t little league—get rid of it.
Argument(s) against: Sportsmanship. It’s just a game; these guys are highly paid professionals and should act like it. Sometimes grownups have to do things they don’t want to do, and as far a bad things go, waiting in line to shake a few hands doesn’t seem like that big a deal compared something like…getting a root canal or something similarly unpleasant. So suck it up and deal with it, it’ll be over in 90 seconds.
The College Football Playoff Is Officially Perfect
Argument(s) for: In case you haven’t heard, if the BCS was still in place, the championship game this year would’ve been Florida State vs. Alabama, both of which were waxed by their opponents. The championship game gave ESPN their highest overnight rating ever. Four teams is just the right number—there’s nothing wrong with leaving people hungry for more.
Argument(s) against: The CFP is good, but it could be great. While moving to a four-team playoff was a step in the right direction, the step wasn’t big enough. Everyone knew it was going to be a money-making ratings juggernaut, so why didn’t they start at six or eight teams? Because that’s definitely where this is headed—nobody leaves that much money on the table.
The More Instant Replay, the Merrier
Argument(s) for: The only thing that should matter in the end is getting calls right because there’s nothing worse than when the zebras play a large part in the outcome of a game. In fact, they haven’t gone far enough with replay—everything should be reviewable, including penalties.
Argument(s) against: The human element shouldn’t be taken out of any game entirely. We only hear about the ridiculously blown calls, but referees get it right 99 percent of the time. And besides, aren’t most games long enough? The replay currently in place already slows down the pace, anything more would be excessive.
Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?
Argument(s) for Manning: Peyton Manning has all the regular seasons records. Well maybe not all, but an awful lot.
Argument(s) for Brady: Tom Brady has all the Super Bowls. Well maybe not all, but three wins and five appearances (soon to be six).
MLB Steroid Era Players Shouldn't Be Excluded from the HOF
Argument(s) for: Even though it was an entire era, only a handful of admitted and suspected PED users take the brunt of the blame for behavior believed to be pervasive throughout the league. Many believe players like Barry Bonds, for instance would have had a HOF career either way. And there are a number of men already enshrined in Cooperstown, like Ty Cobb, whose sins are much worse.
Argument(s) against: They cheated, breaking both the rules and the law, in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage. A black and white answer for a black and white issue.
Joe Flacco: Elite or Not Elite?
Argument(s) for: John Harbaugh definitely thinks Joe Flacco is elite, not to mention “the best quarterback in football,” so does President Obama. He’s also durable; Flacco hasn’t missed a single start in seven seasons. During the regular season he’s often solidly average, but in the playoffs he’s 10-4 and recently “became just the third quarterback in NFL history to post a rating of at least five consecutive postseason games.”
Argument(s) against: Flacco really is very average in the regular season—and that’s on his better years. Statistically on average he’s in the middle of the pack among quarterbacks annually, except for in 2013, when Flacco finished almost dead last among passers with 300+ attempts. Only the Giants’ Eli Manning was worse. Flacco is turnover prone, inconsistent, and has a cool and aloof way about him that has, at times, rubbed his teammates the wrong way. Bottom line: elite quarterbacks are elite year round.
The Continued Existence of Designated Hitters
Argument(s) for: The designated hitter has been dividing MLB players, managers, media and fans for 41 years now. Which means it’s not going away, folks! So it’s time to stop being babies about it.
Argument(s) against: Although it’s still considered a black mark on the purity of our national pastime by a dwindling number of drama queens, the DH’s real problem is that it only exists in the AL. Aside from the baseball world being completely adverse to change, there is absolutely no reason for the AL and NL to have different rules. People who argue it provides and unfair competitive advantage are spot on, so let the NL join the party already!
There Is a Widespread SEC Bias
Argument(s) for: Remember when people wondered if the eventual champion of the struggling Big Ten deserved a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff? Would a four-team playoff that included a one-loss Ohio State, or Michigan State, rather than the SEC West runner-up really be representative of the four best teams in the country? Such speculation seems silly after the Buckeyes overpowered one-loss, SEC champion Alabama, before crushing Oregon in the National Championship. The SEC juggernaut proved to be less than unstoppable outside the media bubble, breaking even against Power 5 non-conference opponents in the regular season and it's seven ranked teams went 2-5 in their bowl games. So, why was the SEC always given the benefit of the doubt? Bias.
Argument(s) against: Perhaps the SEC is plateauing and the rest of the world is edging closer, but under oath, not even TCU's athletic director could claim that the strength of their conference schedule comes anywhere close to what a team in the SEC West endures...and the East could make a compelling case as well. The SEC West went 28-0 against non-conference opponents last season. 28 wins, no losses. And, the SEC's all-time winning percentage in bowl games of .563 is the best of the Power 5. Reality seems to have a strong SEC bias.
NFL Playoffs Should Be Expanded
Argument(s) for: Having gotten nowhere with the NFLPA in their quest to expand the regular season from 16 to 18 games, the NFL seeking expansion of the playoffs seems like just the right compromise. The added games would only impact 2-4 potential playoff eligible teams, which would likely make players far more amiable to the extra work.
Argument(s) against: Football is a brutal sport that has been proven to have very severe, sometimes dire, health consequences long after a career concludes. The NFL already generates upwards of $10 billion annually, exactly how much more money do they need? Everything seems to be going swimmingly for the league and its stakeholders—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
College Athletes Should Be Compensated Beyond Scholarships
Argument(s) for: The NCAA’s nonsense about protecting the tradition of amateurism is just that, nonsense. The punitive and self-righteous governing body of college sports spends most of its time sniffing out minor violations to punish the athletes responsible for generating annual revenue that is expected to top $1 billion. Athletes are generating that revenue and deserve a slice of the pie.
Argument(s) against: For starters, since when does a cost-free college education not constitute compensation? NCAA athletes are given an education, free room and board, a meal plan, and an opportunity to distinguish themselves on a national stage, paving the way for the possibility of a professional career. That’s a lot more than most people get—why are these kids so ungrateful?
Aging Athletes Should Feel Obligated to Take Pay Cuts
Argument(s) for: They’re being paid based more on services rendered than current or future contributions—since when is that how things are done? Besides, how much money does, for instance, Kobe Bryant need? To date he’s already made over $303 million in his career, which, by the way, has basically been over since 2013. And he’s only due $25 million more!
Argument(s) against: They’re being paid what the market has determined they’re worth. Under the very best of circumstances the career of a professional athlete is over by age 40—even 35 is generous. So the few that actually make it that far, and win championships along the way, have earned the right to be overpaid for a couple of seasons and not care a lick about public perception.
Athlete Obligation to Engage the Media
Argument(s) for: Well for starters, it’s a job requirement. Athletes are compensated very well for their efforts on the field and have relatively few obligations off the field. Having to spend a few minutes once or twice a week answering stupid questions does not constitute an unreasonable burden and it won’t kill you, Marshawn Lynch! Or…ya know…whoever.
Argument(s) against: Well for starters, it’s not really a job requirement. Athletes are compensated very well because they have a special talent and ability to do a job 99.9 percent of the population cannot. They put themselves at risk and their collective efforts generate billions annually. So if they don’t want to sing and dance every time someone shoves a camera or microphone in their faces, that should be respected.
Running Up the Score Is Okay
Argument(s) for: If you don’t want us running up the score, how about you stop us? Without a mercy rule contingency plan, sometimes it’s difficult to establish exactly what constitutes running up the score. If a football team is playing all second and third string guys who are running the ball, but still scoring at will, what then?
Argument(s) against: Sportsmanship. For the most part, competitive athletes aren’t there because they want to utterly humiliate the opposition—they just want to win. Recently a high school girls basketball team in California made headlines after beating a team 161-2—who came away from that game looking worse?