Content Standards: Avoiding non-sports content
This is the final installment of a 10-part series explaining Bleacher Report’s Content Standards in depth.
This might sound obvious, but Bleacher Report readers come to Bleacher Report to read about sports.
Sometimes, though, serious and often volatile topics such as religion, race and politics intertwine with the sports world. Tim Thomas’ refusal to join the Boston Bruins’ visit to the White House was a recent example. On those occastions, it’s appropriate to write about them for B/R.
But even then, the focus has to be on the sports discussion. The Thomas incident can’t be an excuse to go on a 700-word rant against the government or the Tea Party. Shifting the focus away from sports risks alienating readers and provoking heated 150-comment threads—with none of those comments being about Bleacher Report’s subject matter, sports.
The challenge is to know where the line is. Here are some examples of Bleacher Report writers getting it right:
After the Denver Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the New York Jets, televangelist Pat Robertson said that a potential Peyton Manning injury would serve the Broncos right. That transcended sports.
Levy takes a stance against the remarks—note how he weaves talk about Robertson and Tebow together, rather than merely ranting against Robertson. He turns the thesis toward Tebow, writing that the quarterback benefits as a football player by avoiding a bench role on the Broncos behind Manning, and that Tebow also stands to get even more publicity than ever for his message in America’s No. 1 media market.
Had this article used the incident as a launching pad for a rant against Robertson’s career or televangelists in general, it wouldn’t have been appropriate for Bleacher Report. Instead, the piece kept the focus on sports and clicked with readers.
Jeremy Lin landed on two consecutive Sports Illustrated covers and a Time magazine cover during the 2011-12 NBA season. He transcended sports in the public’s eyes for numerous reasons: He was an Asian-American superstar from Harvard University who had been cut by the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors before landing in Madison Square Garden.
While Lin became an overnight sensation, he got some backlash, most notably from boxing champ Floyd Mayweather, who claimed Lin’s newfound popularity was due to his race.
Reactions poured in from around the web, and Tong’s piece hits the mark while keeping the focus on sports. Note how he uses statistical evidence throughout his submission to diffuse some of Mayweather’s comments, showing that such a run had never been performed by a player of any race.
It could be easy to turn the Mayweather comments into a discussion about race, but Tong kept the sports focus and delivered a hit.
Read any political comment thread on a major website and you’ll see how common it is for readers to post offensive comments.
While sports articles aren’t immune to heated comments, an unhealthy dose of politics in your articles almost always leads the conversation away from sports. If you’re seeing “stick to sports” comments in the thread, your article strayed too far. B/R isn’t the place for partisan politics.
In this example, Goss plays with fire with an article about Thomas’ refusal to attend the White House festivities.
Goss could have gone on a political rant. He refrains from going that route, focusing on Thomas’ decision and its ramifications instead of critiquing the goalie’s beliefs. Goss even makes a comment that perfectly encapsulates this blog post’s message:
“Despite the fact the event took place at the White House, the day was about sports, and not about who supports what party or which political ideology you believe in. Sports is a place where people can forget about the topics and arguments that politics create.”
Take Home Note
When writing about topics that extend beyond sports, keep your focus on the field of play.
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Paul Kasabian is Bleacher Report’s Content Moderation Coordinator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.