Sports unraveled, collided with politics, racism in 2022

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas speaks to her coach after winning the 500 meter freestyle during a meet with Harvard on Jan. 22 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is shown during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. The return of Brittney Griner to the United States in a dramatic prisoner swap with Russia marked the culmination of a 10-month ordeal that captivated world attention, a saga that landed at the intersection of sports, politics, race and gender identity — and wartime diplomacy. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder poses for photos during an event to unveil the NFL football team’s new identity on Feb. 2 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) walks off of the field after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 17 in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin, File)

The unspoken deal between sports fans and their favorite teams and players has been, in theory: Sure, there are billions of dollars being thrown around, but at the core, sports are supposed to be fun and games, a never-ending menu of two- or three-hour escapes into a land of winners and losers where nobody really gets hurt.