Sports and politics are becoming more and more intertwined, so perhaps it’s not terribly surprising that we’re seeing the launch of a show dedicated to the intersection of the two arenas. Sirius XM announced Wednesday that ESPN senior correspondent Andy Katz and ABC News political director Rick Klein will be launching a new limited-run show called “The Arena” that’s focused on sports and politics, inviting “some of the biggest names from the sports and political worlds to examine how sports-related topics can drive the agenda in D.C.” The show will run for six episodes, starting Friday, October 2, on Sirius XM’s non-partisan political channel P.O.T.U.S. (124). In a smart promotional gambit, Sirius has already released clips of the key interview from the first episode: Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who talks about why he doesn’t feel the Washington Redskins’ name is offensive:
This clip, which includes Bush saying “Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive” and “I don’t think they should change it,” is already making waves. It deserves some context, though. For one thing, it’s certainly interesting that Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder has donated $100,000 to a Super PAC that supports Bush’s presidential campaign:
Snyder also happens to be helping bankroll Bush’s presidential campaign. In April, he contributed $100,000 to the Right to Rise Super PAC, a legally unaffiliated pro-Bush committee for which Bush himself actively raised money.
Bush’s comments have also already raised hackles from political opponents:
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, called Bush’s support of the Redskins name “extremely insulting to Native American people.”
“The team’s name is a racial slur that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native American people and reduces proud cultures to an insulting caricature,” she said.
And some Native American groups have weighed in with their own opposition:
The Oneida Indian Nation’s Change the Mascot campaign released a statement denouncing Bush for “endorsing the NFL’s preferred racial slur against Native Americans.”
“What is surprising is that in promoting the use of this slur, the governor somehow believes he speaks for Native Americans and can assert that Native American people do not find this slur offensive. He clearly is missing something,” the group said. “What is even more appalling is the governor’s declaration that because he personally doesn’t find this slur offensive, that makes it acceptable. This should be a very simple open-and-shut issue in the 2016 campaign: No presidential candidate should be promoting this racial slur against Native Americans.”
So, that’s quite the debut for this show, which hasn’t even aired an episode yet. It’s a promising idea, though; politics and sports are becoming increasingly intertwined these days, and a show examining that has some merit. Katz and Klein also both have impressive journalistic reputations, so hopefully they can prevent this from degenerating into a political mess. If done well, this could become a smart forum to discuss the interplay of sports and politics. We’ll see how it goes.