The sociology of sports stories that most defined 2022.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) There is little doubt that the year 2022 was full of important events. It was the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which has had a major impact on the lives of countless numbers of women and girls in different areas of society. In June 2022, a major political issue took hold of the nation as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. Violence, both foreign and domestic, remained in the headlines for much of the year such as with the Russia/Ukraine situation. Electoral politics snatched a lot of attention due to the midterm elections. In 2022, there were also major international sporting events including the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. This year was easy for sports fans and all people in the U.S. to have a greater understanding of what global implications can have on life in the U.S. Here are the sports stories that had the most societal implications in 2022 leading to the story with the biggest implications:

  1. The NFL’s Deshaun Watson saga

The NFL is used to facing difficult public relations issues with its players, coaches, and even owners like Washington’s Daniel Snyder. However, since 2021, former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson had been embroiled in the biggest controversy for a Pro Bowl quarterback since Michael Vick’s dogfighting legal troubles.  Watson had been sued by more than two dozen female massage therapists for sexual harassment and sexual assault. He has maintained his innocence while settling in court most of those lawsuits. In March 2022, Watson was traded to the desperate Cleveland Browns and signed one of the biggest contracts in NFL history despite the accusations. After a lengthy suspension, Watson played his first NFL game in nearly two years earlier this month back at Houston to an audience of boos. His story reminds people of how a celebrity’s talent can supersede even a couple of dozen of unsettling allegations.

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  1. WNBA star Brittney Griner returns to the U.S. from Russia

Brittney Griner has been one of the biggest faces of women’s basketball for a decade. The WNBA All-Star had gotten a lot of support from the women’s college basketball community, WNBA, and other sports leagues as Griner was sentenced to nine years in a prison in Russia after being arrested for the possession of cannabis oil at a Moscow airport. She had been detained since February 2022. In early December 2022, the Biden Administration finally made a deal with Russia for a prisoner swap that included arms deal Viktor Bout. While this seems like a sports-only story, it is clearly related to the Russia/Ukraine situation and the U.S. and Russia’s political tension.

  1. The loss of the iconic Bill Russell

Easily one of the most important figures in NBA and sports history was former Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. One of the more memorable images in sports photography is Russell with his 11 NBA championship rings on his fingers smiling with his hands holding up his head. Even though he was 88 years old when he passed on July 31, 2022, Russell’s passing still seemed too soon. While he was one of the best players ever to step on an NBA court, he also wasn’t afraid to stand up for the humanity of Black people and is one of the first and greatest examples ever of the athlete activist. The 2022-23 NBA season has Bill Russell’s image throughout with his Celtics number 6 displayed in all NBA games and his number being retired by all NBA teams, the first time that has ever happened. It is well deserved.

  1. The global games of the Winter Olympics and the World Cup
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The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar were guaranteed to be polarizing as often times host nations of international sporting events are under the microscope. The 2022 Winter Olympic Games fraught with controversy given the U.S. media’s questions about China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues between the U.S. and China. The 2022 FIFA World Cup had a unique hold on the sporting public by beginning in the last couple of months of 2022 but there has been criticism over Qatar hosting the major event due to the banning of alcoholic beer from stadiums and the oppression of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people in Qatar.

  1. Gun violence impacts all of society

There was perhaps no sadder month in 2022 than May 2022 when the mass shootings at a Buffalo, New York supermarket and at an Uvalde, Texas elementary school happened days apart. The Buffalo mass shooter clearly targeted a predominantly African/Black supermarket while filled with hatred and racism. The Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, who are the major sports teams in the area, had a response following the tragedy. The murders of children and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas touched so many deeply including Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who made an emotional plea before his team’s playoff game back in May 2022. U.S. gun violence issues on multiple levels continues to be a conundrum.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines