Since sports returned from being shut down by COVID-19, studio and debate shows have enjoyed being able to talk about live games again, rather than whether or not seasons will be played and what sorts of protocols are implemented.
But during the same span, anchors and analysts have also attempted to address the unrest over racial injustice in the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, and far too many other Black people from police violence in recent months and years.
This weekend, Saturday Night Live attempted to parody the difficulties that these on-air shoutfests have had in “sticking to sports,” especially when Black broadcasters feel compelled to comment on what’s happening in the real world, along with the platform that athletes and their respective sports leagues should utilize for social justice.
In a skit titled “Sports Debate,” host Bill Burr played analyst Gill Scott, who’s all too eager to jump on his colleague, Hall of Fame wide receiver Kevin “Cash” Dozier (Kenan Thompson), for picking the Buccaneers to beat the Bears on Thursday Night Football.
Scott has planned several on-air shenanigans, such as bringing out a giant baby bottle, to rub Dozier’s face in the Bears’ win. But Dozier has other, weightier matters than football on his mind.
“I didn’t watch the game after hearing about Kareem Jenkins,” said Dozier, “the black man who was shot by police last night. It was a terrible tragedy.”
The Black host of “The Blitz,” Michelle Compton (Ego Nwodim), echoed her colleague’s sentiments. Football just wasn’t important in the face of racial violence.
Suddenly, Scott’s elaborate stunt of having a luxury steak dinner served to him at the studio desk (while wearing a wool bear cap) is entirely inappropriate. Even more awkward is him trying to join his Black colleagues in their sadness over the shooting and acting like he didn’t watch much of the football game that was so important to him just minutes earlier. And man, he really wants that steak.
As far as we know, no national or regional sports talk show has encountered a situation as uncomfortable as what SNL spoofed. But trying to balance the frivolity of sports with the seriousness of current events, while also trying to entertain TV viewers wanting some on-air trash-talking and taunting, has been a difficult endeavor in recent months.