Football and Politics Mix about as well as Rock and Politics

Evidently there is controversy in Seattle, where 2 members of the Seattle Seahawks went to a Republican fundraiser where they met President Bush, presented him with a Seahawks jersey and declared him “an honorary Seahawk.” As the Seattle Post Intelligence reports:

The Seahawks quarterback and fullback gave the 43rd president a No. 43 jersey with his name on it at a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Rep. Dave Reichert at the Hyatt.At the time, Hasselbeck called it a thrill and said it was a win-win, this opportunity to meet the president and get out of a team meeting.

But as soon as he saw the picture of the two players with Bush, Gary Wright, the team’s vice president of administration, said he was concerned about negative reaction.

Maybe in really red Republican states, it would not have been a big deal. But Washington is a blue state, and deep, deep Democratic blue in King County. So objections were raised, and Hasselbeck heard them and read them. He got nasty voice mails, e-mails and text messages.

[...]As a quarterback, he’s used to getting booed. “But this was a whole new level,” he said. “I was very surprised how mean (they were).”

As evidence were these responses to Angelo Bruscas’ blog posting on

“How dare Hasselbeck declare Bush an honorary Seahawk,” wrote one. “Who is Matt speaking for? Bush is no Seahawk. He is the worst president of my lifetime, and I’m almost 60. Shame on you, Matt.”

“To learn that two of the most popular Seahawks are strong (Bush) supporters ruins the season for me and my family,” wrote another.

And Timothy P. wrote: “Just goes to show you that being a great athlete doesn’t make you smart.”

Among the right-wing rebuttals: “Amen! It’s about time that someone broke through the liberal haze in this state. I don’t know about anyone else, but the Seahawks gained another fan and ticket buyer.”

And this: “He’s the president of the United States. You liberals are the nastiest, most hateful people I know. I’m ashamed of Seattle.”

This strongly echoes the discussion I wrote about here regarding AT&T censoring Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush lyrics. It is also, as liberal blog The Carpetbagger Report notes, an odd counter-story to the conservative tirade against the Dixie Chicks (he notes that the conservative blogs who strongly urged burning of Dixie Chicks cds when they said mean things about Bush are now strongly urging liberals to allow conservatives freedom of speech).

At the core of the problem here is that people IDENTIFY with bands and teams, and that identification — that sense of having their very selfhood tied up in this other thing — is central to what makes them fans. So when the singer, the quarterback, the … whatever, says something that goes against something else they strongly identify with (politics being a great example, but not the only one) it creates a lot of dissonance.

For example, I love love love the band The Wrens. They have an odd number of songs that mention guns. They’ve got one song in which their singer seems to be seeking “a faster gun.” I think guns are bad bad things. I’d like to see them off the U.S. streets. When I met them, one of the things I asked was “are you guys like really pro-gun cuz, if you are, I think I have to re-evaluate my affection.” Luckily for me, they said “NO!” But now I guess they’ve lost the NRA lobby.

Bottom line: Of course public figures have the right to express their political attitudes. But they should not be surprised when there is backlash from fans. Shared taste in sports teams, pop music, tv shows, literature, you name it, does not guarantee shared attitudes toward anything else, and if you’re making your living in part by relying on other people’s identification with you and what you do, that is at risk every time you express an opinion. That’s just the way it is.

Comments (4) to “Football and Politics Mix about as well as Rock and Politics”

  1. Why people are surprised that Matt Hasselbeck, husband of Elizabeth Hasselbeck (the only Republican on the View) is also a Republican is a mystery to me. While it’s true opposites can coexist (Carville and his wife), more often than not that’s not the case.

  2. I don’t think the reaction is so much shock that he’s Republican, I think it’s that the gift of the jersey and the ‘honorary Seahawk’ comment aligned the whole team with the republicans, not just himself.

  3. p.s. appreciate your frequent comments, Ron!

  4. Probably overwhelmingly, I listen to people who are on the same page as I am, politically, so it’s not too big an issue for me.

    I have, however, sold a few records back after hearing what I felt were homophobic lyrics. (Descendents come to mind.)

    I watched that Dixie Chicks documentary recently, and as someone who’s not a fan, I didn’t realize the extent of the damage that was done to their career. The “ashamed to be from Texas” remark seemed so minor compared to what an overtly political band like, I don’t know, Negativland, would do, but then they don’t have to worry that Wal-Mart is pulling their records.