The national conversation about protests within sports just went to another level, as professional baseball and basketball teams opted not to play Wednesday in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Fans across the country watched as many of the franchises and athletes themselves took to social media to explain their decisions, express their support for Black Lives Matter and take a stand against racial injustice.
Shawn Steel, a delegate for President Donald Trump, California’s Republican National Committeeman and former California Republican Party Chairman, spoke candidly with KCBS Radio’s "The State Of California" late Wednesday in reaction to the protests.
Steel, who said he’s a long-time Dodgers season ticket holder and has frequent tickets to Lakers games, lambasted the athletes’ stance, saying that sports "seems to be infected deeply with politicization of our times."
"When they throw the politics into the stuff with a bunch of millionaires, some of them extremely, extremely wealthy and complaining about Americans," Steel explained. "They’re frankly the 1% in that entire arena. They’ve got 18,000 people and they’re richer than 95% of the people in the stands and you’re supposed to be ashamed of yourself for, I don’t know, for just being there to make them even richer. It’s really hurting the NBA. It’s hurting Major League Baseball."
Steele told KCBS Radio’s Doug Sovern, Jeff Bell and Patti Reising he believes the ongoing controversy around standing for the national anthem and athlete protests "is one of the key reasons Trump and Pence are going to win."
"I think most Americans and I think Joe Biden, if he’s forced in a corner and if he could clearly think about the question and answer it, would say 'Yeah. You should stand for the national anthem.' That’s kind of an 80 percenter. You can’t lose with that," Steel said.
When asked by Reising if he thought athletes didn’t have the right to protest, Steel criticized the legitimacy of the question, then said: "I’m Libertarian. They can pee on the floor if they wanted to. I don’t care. I think it’s disrespectful to probably the greatest country in the history of humankind to do that. The country that has saved civilization again and again and that has uplifted poverty throughout the world and has given them a nice, secure, beautiful place to live with their families. Of course they have the right do to that."
"I’m just not very excited to see them. I can’t get over the fact that I’m going to get a lecture from a super, super wealthy guy that doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about," Steel said.
Steel’s wife, Michelle Park Steel, is an Orange County Supervisor and is running as a Republican in the state’s 48th Congressional District.