Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Should Athletes Shut Up About Politics?

By Anthony Brancato

Just when you thought that all athletes were "politically correct," "woke," or whatever it's called these days, along come a pair of mixed martial arts fighters to debunk that myth.

Both of the fighters in question — Jorge Masvidal and Rose Namajunas — have family ties to current or former communist countries, Cuba in Masvidal's case, Lithuania in that of Ms. Namajunas, respectively.

And neither are in any mood to let bygones be bygones, both carrying their grudges to irrational extremes, Masvidal having become an ardent admirer of Ayn Rand, recommending that everyone read "Atlas Shrugged" (or "La Rebelion de Atlas" in Spanish — not exactly a literal translation, which would be "Atlas Incogido"), even though he hypocritically kvetched about "when I was sleeping in my car, and I had a broken window that wouldn't go up and down and it's (expletive) pouring rain, and I had my dog with me. I had practice in five hours, and I couldn't sleep. Where the (expletive) were these people? Would any of them buy me a cheeseburger?"

(Guess it's true what they say about "survival of the fittest" — it sounds totally awesome, so long as it is someone else's survival that is at stake).

Meanwhile, Ms. Namajunas (who often gets misidentified as Hispanic by those who are unfamiliar with her life story; far more often, Lithuanian surnames are mistaken for Greek surnames, perhaps the most celebrated example being Carl Barzilauskas, a Lithuanian-American interior defensive lineman who played for the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers in the 1970s) has taken her hatred for "communism" so far that it is threatening to create an international incident between the United States and "Red" China.

After saying that the fact that her upcoming opponent, Zhang Weili, is Chinese, gives her special motivation for Saturday's women's straw-weight (115-pound) title fight at UFC 261 (the corresponding weight class does not exist for men, which some observers believe is doubly discriminatory, in that it constitutes not only reverse gender discrimination, but also discriminates against Asians, who would figure to dominate the division if it existed), Ms. Namajunas piled on by using the McCarthy-era cliche, "Better dead than red."

Ms. Namajunas' remarks are not only inflammatory and prejudicial, but spectacularly inconsiderate and self-centered (with all the hate crimes being committed against Asians and Asian-Americans) and also, to put it quite literally, stupid and ignorant: If China was as "communist" as Ms. Namajunas claimed, then how could its Gini coefficient (the proverbial gold standard when it comes to measuring income and wealth inequality) of 46.7 be higher than that of every single country in merely "socialist" Europe? (It should be interesting to see if Ms. Namajunas goes similarly postal in the event that she is ever matched up against, say, a Scandinavian opponent.)

Chairman Mao has been dead for 45 years, Rose — yet China is admittedly still "red" in one sense, in that it has killed, according to some estimates at least, more than 100 million of its own people since it became a "People's Republic" in 1949 (it has also lifted 850 million of its citizens out of poverty in the past 40 years; but arguably, its "one-child-per family" policy, watered down in 2015 to two children per family, suggests that China's post-Maoist economic model is actually Malthusian — not Marxian).

As for Masvidal, he, too, has a title bout on the same card as that of Ms. Namajunas, as he will have a rematch vs. UFC welterweight (170-pound) champion Kamaru Usman, who defeated him by unanimous decision at UFC 251 on July 5 of last year (Usman has had a fight in between; Masvidal has not).

Masvidal and Ms. Namajunas are certainly entitled to their opinions about Castro's Cuba, which places its political opponents in what Reader's Digest described as "coffin-like 'drawer cells'," and the Soviet Union (of which Lithuania was a part until 1991), which murdered an estimated 26 million people, including as many as 14 million in the Holomodor (the contrived famine they engineered in Ukraine in the early 1930s) and 10 million in the gulags of Siberia, respectively.

So the evils of communism cannot be denied by any rational person — yet at the same time, having been oppressed by one form of evil does not justify embracing another form of evil: Laissez-faire capitalism — or, more accurately, Social Darwinism — kills more than 20 million people every year, primarily due to starvation and easily treatable diseases.

If Masvidal and Ms. Namajunas love Social Darwinism so much, then let them go live in a country like Equatorial Guinea, Botswana, or Namibia. They will surely find themselves very much in their element there.

When athletes say and do dumb things in the name of politics, doesn't it only serve to reinforce the uniquely American stereotype of all athletes as dumb?

And where are the hypocrites who have been telling the likes of Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James to just shut up and play?

How come they're not telling Jorge Masvidal and Rose Namajunas to just shut up and fight?

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

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