From “The Popeye” File, Ethics Dunce: Kurt Streeter, NYT Sports Columnist

I’ve complained about Streeter before, but he really needs to be officially flagged as an Ethics Dunce, hence this Popeye post, an Ethics Alarms feature when my alternatives are to write or throw myself into a woodchipper. Streeter personifies the general principle that if a reader can tell your race while reading your work product about a topic that doesn’t have anything to do with race, you’re biased and laboring under a conflict of interest while using your job to advance personal agendas and grievances.

Streeter now writes the once iconic “Sports of The Times” column, and, the Times tells us, “he has a particular interest in the connection between sports and broader society, especially regarding issues of race, gender and social justice.” Translation: He exploits sports to advance his social justice hobby horses rather than enlighten readers about what he’s supposed to be writing about. His presence as the New York Times’ most prestigiously-presented sportswriter tells us exactly what the New York Times cares about, and it sure isn’t sports.

Sports is often about ethics, and Streeter’s Sunday Times column column today pretends to be about ethics. It’s called “Tokyo Olympians Are Showing That Grit Can Be Graceful,” and a few of his entries raise some great ethics issues. For example, I didn’t know, because watching the greed- and Larry Vaughn Effect-driven Olympics could not drag me from my disorderly sock drawer, that high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy agreed to forgo a jumpoff that would have decided the competition so they could share the Olympic gold medal. That’s fascinating, because the deal could be the ultimate display of sportsmanship and respect, or a calculated decision to maximize personal gain while minimizing risk of loss at the expense of competition, which is, after all, what fans want to see. Streeter, however, can’t see the issue, and instead has to take his social justice warrior cheap shot. “They knew full well they would be blasted by those who claim that there must always be a single winner, that sharing is weak and — even worse — unmanly,” he writes. Streeter is so tiresome and predictable.

Being tiresome and predictable, he naturally puts the Simone Biles fiasco in the category of “showing grit and grace,” when it was in fact the opposite of both. But he really sounds the Ethics Dunce ethics alarm when he extols Raven Saunders for deliberately breaking the I.O.C.’s rule against political demonstrations on the winners’ stand. I wrote about her grotesque grandstanding…

here. Streeter didn’t bother to try to explain what was either gritty or graceful about her narcissism and disrespect. He just allies himself with her because she’s black and “woke.” He calls her “as proud and charismatic an athlete as there is in Tokyo, with her Hulk masks and her gyrating celebrations and her willingness to stand up for what she believes.” Yes, Kurt, nothing says “grace” like a Hulk mask. There is also nothing virtuous or ethical about pride, which Saunders would know if she ever read the Bible’s Book of Proverbs’ 16:18, nor “charismatic” about showboating, which screams, “Look at me!” As for being willing to stand up for what she believes, Streeter is typically selective about who gets to do that with his approval—if it’s also what he believes, this is good. Otherwise not so much.

There are times and places to stand up for what you believe, and the Olympic Games is not one of those places. Of course, Streeter also believes NFL players who are functionally ignorant of the issues they “believe in” should turn football games into their own personal protests.

Back to Streeter’s lauding Saunders. He writes,

I’m a Black female, I’m queer, and I talk about mental health awareness,” she told an NBC reporter, explaining the meaning of the X. “I deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD, a lot. I represent being at that intersection.” The symbol, she said, was for the oppressed.

Oh. That explains everything.

I’m a Black female”: Irrelevant.

“I’m queer.” : Good for you. I don’t care.

“I talk about mental health awareness”: So what? There’s no medal for “talking about mental health awareness.”

“I deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD”: Wow! Aren’t you special!

“I represent being at that intersection.” No you really don’t. You represent the United States of America and the Olympics. Nobody with depression, anxiety or PTSD asked you to “represent” them by revealing yourself as a self-glorifying narcissist before the world. You actually represent the kind of divisive and self-obsessed athlete that is ruining sports.

This, however, is only prelude to what really brands Kurt Streeter as an Ethics Dunce.

He goes on to complain,

Then, days after winning silver, Saunders sustained a terrible loss: Her mother died. The I.O.C.’s response? Instead of dropping any effort to penalize her, the organization that lords over global sports said it would simply press pause before deciding whether to discipline Saunders for her display. The Olympic organizers need to get with it. Saunders already showed she was not about to bow to their silly rules.

I could hear Jason Whitlock’s head exploding from my living room. Sports are about “silly rules.” You follow those rules, or you’re cheating, and you are certainly not fit to compete. The #1 sports pundit at the New York Times thinks that an athlete who defies the rules of the organization overseeing her sport is admirable! That’s signature significance for a newspaper that isn’t competent to cover sports.

Whitlock’s poor head blasted because he is constantly condemning the infantilizing of African-Americans, and rightly so. Saunders’ mother dying is not the concern of the I.O.C., nor does it make Saunders less guilty of her defiance of the rule against protests. Nor does it mean she should benefit from a random life event.

Now, if Raven were six years old, her second grade teacher might justifiably let her off from having to sit in the corner after she marked up a fellow student’s book by drawing on it with a purple crayon, but she’s not six. Do companies preparing to fire an employee for cause relent because the employee’s mother dies? Not if they are competently run, they don’t. If a cop is writing you a ticket for going 30 miles over the speed limit, should he tear up the ticket when you tell him, “My mother died yesterday?” Should the police department pat him on the back for doing so?

All of this is over Kurt Streeter’s head, evidently. He doesn’t have any comprehension of ethics; he is ruled by rationalizations (30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule; ”38 B: Excessive Accountability, or “He’s Suffered Enough;”59. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”and many more); he constantly makes sports subordinate to his political preferences as he poses as a sportswriter.

What does it say about a newspaper when it should be embarrassed by an incompetent journalist and isn’t?

12 thoughts on “From “The Popeye” File, Ethics Dunce: Kurt Streeter, NYT Sports Columnist

  1. What does it say about a newspaper when it should be embarrassed by an incompetent journalist and isn’t?

    Everything. He’s not incompetent, he’s exactly what the Times wants in a sportswriter and everywhere else in its organization and on its pages. There’s a good reason Francis Menton calls the Times “Pravda.”

  2. The idea of winning is so obviously a “White” (and probably male) construct. People like Saunders and Streeter need to find other endeavors… gardening, maybe.

  3. I don’t subscribe to The Times so I don’t know if he mentioned the US women’s wrestler who gold and gushed about how she felt privileged to represent the US and that her goal is something achievable for everyone, even after losing her father on the way to Tokyo, or the US women’s gymnast who won gold for the US all while dealing with her father’s terrible disability. I suspect he didn’t because they didn’t make their success dependent and subservient to race.


  4. The rule allowing high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy to decide to end the competition and share the gold medal seems a very odd rule as any athletic competition, especially the Olympic Games, is supposed to be trying to find the best. But World Athletics Technical Rule 26.6.4 says “If no jump-off is carried out, including where the relevant athletes at any stage decide not to jump further, the tie for first place shall remain.”
    This is one rule that World Athletics needs to look at changing.

    • From the old days when the Olympics were contested by white country clubbers who’d decide they’d had enough and go have a beer or a couple of brandies and cigars. Bully bully. Maybe those were better days. After they were done playing games, they’d go back to their real jobs.

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