Never stick to just sports.
That was the sentiment seemingly shared by the Dallas Stars’ in-game presentation team Saturday night when they waded into politics, calling out U.S. President Donald Trump and Press Secretary Sean Spicer on their centre-ice scoreboard.
Spicer, on day one of the Trump administration, spoke to reporters about how well the President’s inauguration was attended, saying it was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”
President Trump himself suggested that up to 1.5 million people had attended the ceremony.
Both claims are easily disproved by photographic evidence.
Later that day, during the Stars’ game against Trump’s now-hometown Washington Capitals, the Dallas scoreboard flashed a statistic about the arena’s attendance:
The jab, captured by Kate Morrison on Twitter, garnered the attention of many. As of Monday afternoon, Morrison’s tweet has been retweeted almost 20,000 times and favourited by over 40,000.
It was shared on Twitter by an editor at the New York Times, a correspondent for NBC News, the president of ProPublica, actor Alex Winter of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Kevin McHale (of Glee fame), who has 1.45 million followers on the social-media platform. Business Insider UK picked up the story, as did the Irish Examiner, the New York Daily News, and USA Today.
This isn’t the first time the Stars’ game-presentation team has crafted a joke at the expense of their opponents. But this one clearly caught the attention of those outside hockey — and for good reason.
The sentiment did not appear to be offered in a look-at-me or please-like-my-sport sort of way. Instead, it seemed to make a subtle claim that the sports world can (or perhaps should) stay connected to the world at large.
It wasn’t done out of turn with a blunt protest or obvious bias against one political party or another. It was simply a calling-out of an easily disproven lie by a team in Texas, of all places, where President Trump received more than 50 per cent of the vote and almost one million more ballots than Hillary Clinton.
And it serves as notice that there is no longer a venue in our culture left untouched by the political realm.
From the Millennial Outreach Director of the U.S. Democratic Party:
From an editorial fellow at The Atlantic:
It remains unlikely that sports-news institutions will have many opportunities to weigh in on exclusively political matters.
But the Stars’ joke reminds us that sports teams, fans and individual journalists should always feel welcome in that sphere. And that humour is sometimes the most effective and appropriate (not to mention galvanizing) commentary, giving the average fan a way to connect and make sense of the changing world around them.
The team has opened a door for its fans to walk into. If social-media response is any measure, they’re going to need a bigger door.