VOICES: Why sports, businesses are the new bipartisanship fighting for equality

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Ray Marcano

Ray Marcano

Combined ShapeCaption
Ray Marcano

Bipartisanship is dead, at least on the political side. It has been for a very, very long time. How long? Back in 1902, one senator, on the Senate floor, punched another in the jaw.

Today, the punches come in a different way — by verbal broadside and obstruction.

But now, we’re starting to see the evolution of lasting bipartisanship with two unlikely partners — sports and business.

And Georgia is ground zero.

Georgia’s newly enacted voting law has galvanized critics. Among them, three powerhouses — the Coca-Cola Corp. and Delta Airlines, two of the state’s largest employers, and Major League Baseball. Coke and Delta, through statements, have strongly criticized the legislation. Major League Baseball then pulled its All-Star Game, which was supposed to be played at the home of the Atlanta Braves in July.

Good for them. These actions show us that the new fight for equality isn’t with stuck-in-the-mud lawmakers, but with business and sports.

Lawmakers have to answer to constituents who think like them and donors. Business and sports have to answer to customers and employees who look more like all of America — rich, poor, white, people of color. When you sit in the stands, you don’t sit on the right or left side of the field based on what you believe. You don’t get a different type of soda based on your color.

Non-Hispanic whites make up about 60% of the population today but that’s going to fall to a projected 56% by 2030. The remaining population makes up a sizeable amount of people who can’t, and shouldn’t, be ignored, especially given their enormous buying power — nearly $4 trillion annually.

Nothing makes the “everyone is equal” argument like green, right?

There’s also a class argument here. Georgia is one of the poorest states in the nation, ranking 37th in the country. And while it’s true people of color are on average poorer, 9% of Georgia’s white population falls below the poverty line — and get this: The Brooking Institution did a study that shows there are more poor people living in Republican districts than Democrats. Study after study shows it’s harder for the poor to vote because they lack transportation options.

Businesses (and I’m including sports now) recognize this. They can’t be insular and only represent a portion of their employees or the public. They have to represent everyone. Everyone means the Black liberal or the white rural conservative who will now both have a harder time voting as a result of Georgia lawmakers’ power grab.

No surprise, but elected Republicans from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are criticizing businesses that dare to take a stand, an amazing position since the GOP backed a company that took a stand and refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. You can’t have it both ways.

You’re going to see more of this now because, by in large, the government doesn’t work for us all. It works for powerful special interests, which most of middle-class America is not. Politicians themselves have a special interest — getting elected. In a polarized country, that means continually obstructing policies of the other side, even when they make perfect sense.

One way for us to reverse course is for business to say, “No, this isn’t right, and we don’t stand for it.” It worked in North Carolina. Lawmakers repealed the so-called bathroom bill after the NBA pulled its All-Star game and businesses started leaving the state. If North Carolina hadn’t reversed course, it could have lost $3.7 billion.

Naysayers will scream about woke culture and how sports have no place in societal issues. Really? Remember how the country rallied around Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics? How the Brooklyn Dodgers stood up for equality by playing Jackie Robinson? How the NBA and other sports teams refused to play after George Floyd’s death? Sports has a history of activism that has changed society for the better.

And, if you think fighting for equal rights and justice is part of a woke culture, you’re the one that’s still sleeping. The new bipartisanship realizes that.

Ray Marcano is the interim Ideas and Voices editor for the Dayton Daily News. You can reach him at raymarcanoddn@gmail.com

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