2017 Year In Review: The nonreversible melding of sports and social issues.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) It was impossible for 2017 to be normal due to the political, economic, and social climate that America found itself it at the end of 2016. The U.S. Presidential Election of businessman Donald Trump in November of 2016 unleashed a wave of emotions and ideas about the present and future direction of the country. In 2017, the aftermath of the Trump election included powerful displays of violence, unity, and survival when threats of all types, even natural, became omnipresent in American life. Sports has long been viewed as the perfect “escape” from thoughts of political and social issues and problems but it is clear that will never be the case again.

Once Donald Trump occupied the White House, there were many ideas about what would happen to the sports tradition of championship teams visiting the White House. It was unsure whether entire teams would skip visiting the White House, decide to make a political statement to Trump during visiting the White House, or would teams be fractured by those who wanted the opportunity to go and athletes who refused to go. The New England Patriots of the NFL, which had a couple important ties to Trump, were the first team to have to encounter that uncertainty after their Super Bowl win.

While the Patriots unsurprisingly accepted the invitation, many black Patriots players did not go to the White House and were vocal about Trump being the reason while they were joined by white teammate Chris Long, who did not go as well. The Golden State Warriors of the NBA never got the opportunity because of the constant vocal battles between Donald Trump and some of the NBA’s most popular figures.

The public emergence of the alt-right, which are a group that exemplifies far-right ideologies including white supremacy, was a confrontational part of 2017. The alt-right have make themselves more visible when Confederate monuments or public displays of the Confederate flag are the issue at hand. The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, was the site for an explosive situation between the alt-right and counterprotesters disputing Confederate statue monuments. It led to a violent terror attack by a white nationalist who used a car to drive through a crowd, injuring many people and killing peaceful protester Heather Heyer.

Although there was a lot of tension and conflict during 2017, there was also people banding together as Americans experienced many turbulent natural disasters. There were major hurricanes like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma that destroyed major areas and property in Texas and Florida respectively. Athletes like Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt and Houston Rockets superstar James Harden were major contributors to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. A few months ago, the city of Las Vegas was affected by major gun violence during an attack that occurred at a concert. The expansion NHL team, Las Vegas Golden Knights, were directly affected by the attack in terms of schedule but have been part of the healing process as so many were killed or wounded from the attack.

It was enviable that the sexual assault and sexual harassment issues that have become so public would enter into the sports discussion in 2017. The most disturbing sexual abuse situation involved former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted as part of major sex abuse scandal of numerous former USA gymnasts and sentenced to multiple decades in prison. The issues of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace will not end anytime soon. There was also big revelations with the NCAA in terms of basketball corruption and student-athletes. Polarizing NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not play football in 2017 but his impact was still being felt on and off the field by other athletes in 2017. There was nothing normal about the events in 2017.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines