By: Zachary Draves
This weekend has been one of the most eventful thus far this year in sports.
The NBA All-Star Game is underway in Chicago and the 69th running of the Daytona 500 is in action, albeit with a rain delay.
What is intriguing is that these two events within the world of sports can be interpreted as metaphors for something bigger in the culture.
Both endeavors symbolize two completely different worlds that go beyond sports.
If anything, they represent two Americas.
We are currently in the midst of a division in America that hasn’t been seen in a while.
Those divisions are at the intersection of politics and culture.
Ultimately, sports become linked in.
The NBA is seen as a progressive league that has a wide audience that is diverse and younger, whereas NASCAR is overwhelmingly conservative with a fan base that is largely white and southern.
Those two different pictures have been made into reality just by the appearances of the two most recent presidents.
Former President Barack Obama returned to his hometown of Chicago and made a surprise showing at an NBA Cares event with other players to give out school supplies to kids and later appeared on a panel discussion with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul, and Kevin Love discussing the importance of athlete’s involvement in social change.
Meanwhile, the current resident of the White House made a ceremonious trip down to Daytona and made it into a large campaign rally that included a lap around the track in the presidential limo.
Essentially, he was talking to his core base.
This is metaphorical to describe what is currently happening in the country.
Our nation is becoming more diverse along racial, ethnic, and gender lines.
Also, there is a largely younger generation known as millennials, which are on the cusp of taking over the world.
This new generation overwhelmingly believes in equal rights for all, combating existential threats like climate change, and looking to invest in the future when it comes to public policies around education and health care.
Those demographics more often than not follow the NBA.
After all, the values of these groups match those of the NBA.
The league and many of its players have taken committed stands against injustice whether it is matters of police brutality against African Americans, the inhumane treatment of immigrants, combating gun violence, or the stripping of rights and protections for the LGBTQ community.
They have also formed partnerships and an initiative called NBA Green that looks to make the league more environmentally friendly.
Also, players like LeBron James just recently provided free college tuition to students who attend his I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, something that young people tremendously value when it comes to the crisis of student loan debt.
Many players are speaking out more about issues like mental health and the league has followed suit with a policy that is geared toward providing players with necessary resources.
Currently, the younger generation is more honest and open about mental health than previous generations.
Furthermore, the league has taken unprecedented steps to be active on social media and connect with their fans.
Let’s also not forget that the NBA’s long-standing relationship with hip hop culture plays a major part in the league’s broad appeal.
Hip hop is the most dominant form of popular music in the world today and is found in every corner of the globe that wouldn’t have been even thought possible when hip hop came about in the Bronx in 1973.
To attach oneself to hip hop is opening the doors to a younger and diverse market.
Whereas NASCAR is seemingly stuck in time.
The fan base hasn’t really grown when it comes to racial or ethnic diversity, it doesn’t help when confederate flags are still prevalent in the infield.
In addition, there is no environmental program at least to one’s knowledge that NASCAR has invested in.
With the exception of driver Bubba Wallace speaking out about his battles with depression, to one’s knowledge there isn’t a mental health policy in the sport.
The fan base is also generally of an older generation and NASCAR’s use of social media isn’t as big.
The bond between racing and country music is longstanding as well, but country music, while reaching some elements of mainstream culture, has been largely confined to its strong base in Rural America, which doesn’t necessarily translate into a global phenomenon.
So to sum up, these two sporting bodies reflect two different Americas.
One is in the present and the other is in the past.
It says something about where we are in this world and it takes one busy weekend in sport to find out.NASCA