49ers

Almost required that politics be part of the daily sports menu

Almost required that politics be part of the daily sports menu

“Stick to sports” is dead. Long live “stick to politics and do sports in your spare time.”

On an otherwise peaceful Monday, we discovered that Duke’s second-round loss to South Carolina is being blamed in part on North Carolina’s controversial law SB 2, which caused the East Regional first round to be moved from Greensboro, N.C. to Greenville, S.C., thereby giving South Carolina a home-court advantage (and Duke a disadvantage) it should not have otherwise had.

The argument is nonsense given that South Carolina clearly played the superior game, but it is made nonetheless because politics.

Then Denver Broncos executive John Elway, using his own letterhead, endorsed and urged senators to approve Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. I wonder how many “stick to sports” admonitions he received.

And then Spike Lee claimed that a fulminating conspiracy exists keeping Colin Kaepernick out of the NFL, presumably because he didn’t slavishly and unthinkingly honor the National Anthem by standing like a robot and thinking of anything that came to his head during its playing.

Frankly, next to these little week-starters, the continued sniveling over whether Oklahoma City has expressed enough love to Kevin Durant is an embarrassment to all readers everywhere.

In fact, it is an embarrassment anyway. We have been flogging this idiocy for eight months now, and we show no signs of leaving it alone. Frankly, if this is the alternative, give me politics every time.

But we digress. Now that we have the most polarizing President in history (with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, with whom Donald Trump will never be compared) to reflect the most polarized United States there has been since the Civil War, it is not only normal but almost required that politics be part of the daily sports menu.

Fewer and fewer sporting figures, from owners on down the organizational chart, are reluctant to air their politics in public. They believe, correctly if you’re one of those constitutional junkies who believes the amendments were put there for a reason, that as citizens they get to speak up when the mood strikes them, and that even silence can be a political statement.

In that way, they reflect us as a nation as they are supposed to, and we are not handling these days well at all. Everyone has an opinion, that opinion needs to be shouted and disseminated to strangers without the strangers’ input, and the technology makes that more likely to happen than not.

Of course the NCAA gets to decide how it does business as long as it is prepared for the public fallout. Of course John Elway gets to advocate for Supreme Court justices. Of course Spike Lee gets to claim the NFL is deliberately punishing Kaepernick for not being Republican owner-friendly – although Lee strangely decides Kaepernick should be punished on the back end by urging that he go to the New York Jets.

And that’s the new deal, kids. It’s not going away either. In fact, it will get more and more pronounced as time goes on because the United States is filled with aggrieved people with the power to pipe up and a disinclination to pipe down.

Is this good? Who the hell knows? It irritates people, which the main goal of communication in 21st century America, which probably isn’t sustainable in the long run. It also breaks down the hypocritical taboo of sports figures not involving themselves in politics when athletes and management people have run for office and contributed to candidates for decades, which clearly makes it sustainable.

In other words, the problem here isn’t Duke/South Carolina, or John Elway, or Spike Lee. The problem here is us and our new definition of political discourse, which is a vat of pure boomslang venom with a side of Serbia-v.-Croatia tribal politics. Taking a side doesn’t make you new friends, it makes you new enemies, and in a world in which it is easier than ever to be an enemy (on the internet, you don’t even have to be present or give your real name, that’s how easy it is), ideas like team-building and fan support become more difficult propositions.

But that’s who we are now, which means that’s what sports has to be now. We are not separate from how we converse with each other, which is why “stick to sports” is now more of a fraud than ever.

Except for Spike Lee trying to put Colin Kaepernick on the New York Jets. That, given the tenor of the time, may classify as a war crime.

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

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AP

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.

Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care

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AP

Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care

SANTA CLARA – In less than a year since a group of former 49ers players came together to form the Golden Heart Fund, the non-profit organization has provided valuable assistance.

“We’ve made some progress with the idea of knowing there are some people in need, so we’ve been able to make some grants to some of the ex-Niners,” Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott told NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We’ve been able to respond. This is more about us being able to give guys the ability to know they can have, as (former 49ers linebacker and Golden Heart Fund board member) Ron Ferrari says, a hand up not a hand out.”

The organization is in the midst of a fund-raising drive this week in conjunction with "Dwight Clark Day" on Sunday. The 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium, and Clark will be the guest of honor. More than 35 players from the 49ers' first Super Bowl championship team are expected to be in attendance.

Clark played nine seasons for the 49ers and provided the most memorable play in franchise history with “The Catch” against Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship game, which propelled the organization to its first Super Bowl. Clark served as a front-office executive for a decade after his playing days.

In March, Clark announced he was diagnosed with ALS. He is scheduled to attend Sunday’s game and make some remarks at halftime from a suite.

“It’s unbelievable we are having an opportunity to celebrate an incredible day for this gentleman,” Lott said. “We can all say there was a moment in time in which we stood on his shoulders after making that catch. Now, we get a chance to lift him up a little bit and let him know how much we all care.”

Lott said Clark has been a champion of the Golden Heart Fund from its inception. Past and current 49ers ownership has supported the organization, which provides financial support for former 49ers players in times of physical, emotional and financial need.

“It’s the spirit of Dwight,” Lott said. “It’s more about the funds going in through his efforts. He’s paying it forward.”

--The public can made a direct contribution to the fund at GoldenHeartFund.org.

--Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle at Sunday’s game will benefit the Golden Heart Fund.

--Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the sales of Dwight Clark apparel purchased on game day will go to the fund.

--Half of all proceeds from admission to the 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium throughout the year will go to the charity.

-- On Sunday, Nov. 19, Levi’s Stadium and race grand marshal Roger Craig will host the first Golden Heart 4.9K Run with all proceeds from the event going to the Golden Heart Fund. Runners can register GoldenHeartRun.com.