In my many years following horse racing, I’ve always admired how refreshingly apolitical it is.  While there are occasionally small groups of anti-racing protestors at racetracks, their complaints don’t pertain to mainstream societal issues of the day. 

So far, horse racing has avoided the politically charged controversies and turmoil seen in many other sports.  Thankfully, racetracks, off-track betting facilities, and race telecasts still provide an oasis where people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints can get away from the constant harangue of the outside world for several hours.

America’s most popular sport, The National Football League, used to be like that, but no more.  Regardless of one’s opinion on the subject of players and coaches kneeling or sitting during the presentation of colors and playing of the National Anthem, all can agree that the symbolic gesture is provocative and thus invites commercially negative consequences because a sizeable contingent of fans are sure to be upset.  Many who are offended will choose to not buy tickets or watch on television.  Already, organized NFL boycotts are underway on social media and radio programs are full of callers apparently fed up with the NFL.

It is never, ever a good idea for an organization competing in a competitive and often fickle marketplace to purposely run off customers.  Quite the opposite: Employees are trained to cultivate and cater to all-important existing and potential customers, a point evidently lost on many NFL players and a few coaches.

The NFL and a number of other sports have lost sight of the fact that a major draw of sporting events is that sports traditionally have provided fans with a respite from real-world problems, a fantasy retreat like going to Disney World or a concert.  Their raison d’ê·tre has always been entertainment and escapism.

Fortunately, at Saratoga, Del Mar, Royal Ascot, and other racetracks, the crowd is a marvelous admixture of fans from all walks of life and financial means, who seem to eschew political bickering.  The jockeys, at least in the United States, are largely Hispanic, similar to the demographic profile of players in Major League Baseball.  Moreover, betting on horses is merit-based in that the folks with the winning tickets collect and the losers don’t, irrespective of their economic status or personal characteristics. 

Keeping my fingers crossed that horse racing continues to be a refuge, where people can enjoy themselves without being condescendingly preached to against their wishes.

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