Ted Lasso Tackles the Issue of Politics in Sports
Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso—featuring Jason Sudeikis as an American football coach tasked with coaching U.K. football team AFC Richmond—has restrained itself from being an overtly political show, but as sports and politics are inextricably linked, it was only a matter of time before it was forced to tackle the subject—especially on a football team with international players.
**Spoilers for Ted Lasso S2, E3 “Do the Right-est Thing.”**
Sam Obisanya has been a fantastic supporting character on Ted Lasso, and the show has been slowly elevating him to a more lead role in recent days. This is great because he has the best smile, and I want him to be in everything.
The episode starts with Sam celebrating being in an ad for Dubai Air, the sponsor for AFC Richmond. This is a great get for Sam because brand endorsements mean money and perks. It also narratively shows us how popular he has gotten over the course of the seasons.
Conflict emerges when Sam sends a picture of the ad to his father, who reveals that Dubai Air is owned by Cerithium Oil, which has been doing serious damage to the coast of Nigeria. Sam decides to pull out from the sponsorship and suffers no repercussions, even though Rebecca is being pressured to release him when the head of Cerithium asks for it.
It seems like this might solve everything, except at the next game, Sam covers the Dubai Air logo with black tape. This symbolic gesture is done by the other Nigerians on the team and then followed by Jamie, which leads everyone else to do it. Ted allows Sam to have his voice, and it is a powerful moment, but Higgins is the one character who can tell what a problem this is going to be.
“I’m here to ask the Nigerian government to put an end to decades of environmental destruction by Cerithium Oil — destruction that the Powers That Be have turned a blind eye to for far too long,” Sam says during a press meeting following their loss.
Ted Lasso is an optimistic show, but in this recent season, it has had to shake up that sunny foundation. There is more conflict, slightly more doubt, and reality keeps beaming in through the surface. This is the first episode where we are brought into the financial issues the club has been facing since losing their status: They are bleeding money because they are being paid a lot more than they should be, with less money coming in.
Sam’s actions will have consequences, and I hope that Ted Lasso will stick the landing with it. But this episode was written by the amazing Ashley Nicole Black, so I am not shocked.
Black athletes have always tried to use their platform in sports to bring attention to issues. From the raised fist, the bent knee, and wearing shirts inside out, these are the small ways Black folks have made sure the world knows they are Black first. It is good that Ted Lasso didn’t need anyone to remind them of the complex issues concerning Blackness and sports. Now let’s see how passes the ball.
(image: Apple TV+)
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