There’s too much hate seeping into the sports section – Standard

Joy to the world? Yeah, maybe, if you’re lucky … if you’re looking for it. Maybe in a fleeting moment, on a slow news day.

There is, without a doubt, joy in the world. The problem is joy rarely moves the needle, certainly not like hate does. Hate – whether it’s the serious, vindictive, destructive kind or simply the silly, harmless, fun variety that exists in a heated college football rivalry – is pretty much anywhere and everywhere, especially in our modern world.

People spew hatred with greater ease today than they did even 15 or 20 years ago. Usually those who spew hide behind things: anonymous sign-on names, hoods and masks, inaccurate information and outright lies.

In the same way goodness can bring about more goodness, so too does hate beget more hate. The difference is, goodness takes effort and hate takes the path of least resistance.

During the past week or so, hate has been in the headlines and has seeped into the sports section. By way of explanation, I’m tackling three different topics today, each one thorny and complicated. But each relates to the sports world, so they’re fair game as far as I’m concerned.

BYU vs. UTAH

Last weekend an anonymous paid advertisement appeared in the sports sections of the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News. Under the headline “A message to LDS Ute fans who dislike BYU,” the full-page article focused on the touchy topic of religion in the Utah-BYU rivalry. The author, who referred to himself as both a BYU and a Utah fan, asked why Mormons who align themselves with the U have such animosity toward the Y.

His main premise seemed to be that BYU’s athletic department functions as a missionary tool for the LDS church and therefore it’s counterproductive for sports-loving Mormons to root against the Cougars. The author made a passing reference to BYU fans’ hatred of the U, but made no mention of the way it acts as a reverse missionary tool.

I think I understand his sentiment; but I disagree with the man’s premise. I know many faithful Mormons who side with the Utes, the Aggies and the Wildcats. I doubt they actually “hate” BYU, but they’re definitely not fans and I don’t believe anyone’s going to hell because of it. Heck, I’m almost positive God doesn’t care who wins a dang football game … ever.

Furthermore, I think the article’s author answered his own question. Why would a Ute-loving Mormon “hate” BYU? Because a BYU fan with enough dough to buy a full-page ad decided to reprimand them for not supporting the Cougars, that’s why. I’m not sure exactly what this guy’s ultimate goal was; I’m assuming it was something positive. What I do know is, there are a few more Utah fans out there – LDS and otherwise – thanks to his article.

RAY RICE

Former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice is now eligible to play football again following an arbitrator’s decision to overturn the running back’s indefinite suspension for a well-publicized domestic violence incident. He was initially suspended for two games but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell increased the punishment after the graphic video of the incident surfaced.

Domestic violence is an ugly thing and discussing it can be awkward, so I want to tread lightly here. In no way do I condone or attempt to excuse what he did. But he appears to have complied fully with the NFL and law enforcement officials and has accepted responsibility for his actions.

In a recent TV interview he apologized sincerely and expressed a desire to play football again.

What Rice did was hateful and no doubt there are many who hate him personally. It’s OK to hate what he did and it’s good to hold him accountable for his actions. However, he absolutely deserves a second chance and I hope he gets the opportunity to play again.

It would be easy to make an example of Rice, to banish him forever. A better thing would be to support his efforts to change and hopefully allow him to be an example of rehabilitation and redemption.

ST. LOUIS RAMS’ HANDS UP GESTURE

If discussing religion is taboo and confronting domestic violence is uncomfortable, the issue of race is so emotionally charged it’s almost not worth tackling. The easy thing to do would be to pretend it’ll eventually just go away.

But it won’t.

Understandably, emotions in and around Ferguson, Missouri are running high. Whether you agree with it or not, hate is in the air following a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

You’re already familiar with the details of the case, the grand jury’s decision and the riotous fallout. At issue here is what happened last Sunday, prior to the St. Louis Rams’ home game, when a few Rams players came out with a “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture.

Again, I think I understand the sentiment but I disagree with the action. I’m fully aware that racism exists and I acknowledge the strained history between law enforcement and young black males. Those players were within their rights to make the gesture but let’s not pretend it was a courageous thing to do. It was an easy thing to do.

The courageous thing to do would have been to speak out against destroying a community, against looting black-owned businesses. It would have been difficult for those players to step forward and address the far more prevalent issue of black-on-black crime, but it would have been a lot more effective.

Raising your hands and gesturing for a cause is one thing. A better thing is to start a legitimate, serious dialog about race, the rule of law and the need for peace instead of destruction.

In the wake of the Ferguson decision, several athletes have spoken out on social media, showing support for the protesters there. If they really wanted to make a positive gesture they could have also reached out to the cops who put their lives on the line every day, whose jobs are now even more dangerous than before. They could have asked for understanding and an end to the lawlessness.

They could have spoken out against hate.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo