Once an Escape, Sports Talk Embraces Politics

Just before flying to Las Vegas this week for the Super Bowl, Clay Travis announced his prediction for the game on his popular sports podcast, “OutKick.” The San Francisco 49ers would defeat the Kansas City Chiefs.

Other topics on that episode: the future of college football and whether President Biden is “actually capable” of serving in the White House.

“That’s going to be the question we’ll continue to break down for you,” Mr. Travis said.

The Super Bowl may be the one event that can bring Americans of all stripes together, but the chatter about it — and of sports in general — is increasingly fracturing along partisan lines. A growing number of sports pundits and personalities are eagerly blending sports and politics, taking advantage, like other media, of a thriving market in partisanship.

For the most part, this class of sports commentators largely lives on the right side of the political spectrum, where they have become loud and influential voices reaching an audience that often tunes out traditional coverage of politics. (Analysts suggest audience demographics explain at least part of the rightward tilt of these shows. Sports talk listeners skew male, just like Republican voters.)

Among those jumping into the political pool is Stephen A. Smith, an ESPN fixture who makes frequent appearances on Fox News and hosts an independent podcast where he has recently complained about Mr. Biden’s handling of the economy and the war in Ukraine. “Trump is on the verge of getting re-elected, because when he was in office, there was a flourishing economy,” Mr. Smith said this week.

The trend may be a product of the rise of all sorts of commentary in sports media, as once-dominant highlight shows have been rendered largely obsolete by viral clips on the internet, said Travis Vogan, a University of Iowa professor who studies sports media.

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