political football

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

An allusion to being "kicked back and forth" by opposing politicians, like a ball.

Noun[edit]

political football (countable and uncountable, plural political footballs)

  1. (countable, idiomatic) A contentious political issue or problem that is often debated or discussed, but that remains unresolved; an issue or problem which is avoided by authorities and handed off to others.
    • 1944 Sept. 11, "Foreign News: Free Sicily," Time:
      Last week the most curious sidelight on Winston Churchill's recent trip to Italy was the revelation that Sicily was once again becoming a political football at the toe of the Italian boot.
    • 1992 August 15, Larry Rohter, "Retrial of a Miami Policeman Could Test Judiciary on Race," New York Times (retrieved 12 Nov 2012):
      It is a trial that no city in Florida wants to hold, a political football that has already bounced from Miami to Orlando to Tallahassee, back to Orlando.
  2. (uncountable, idiomatic) Ongoing unproductive wrangling or posturing between political factions, resulting in failure to deal with an issue or problem in a decisive or appropriate way.
    • 1936 April 13, "The Press: Loudspeaker," Time:
      Throughout the month preceding Bruno Richard Hauptmann's electrocution, Carter had relentlessly goaded New Jersey's Governor Harold Giles Hoffman and his henchmen for playing political football with the...
    • 2000 March 25, Karen Armstrong, "A Pilgrim, Not a Pawn," New York Times (retrieved 12 Nov 2012):
      The pope's visit to the Holy Land seemed to be a game of political football, with both the Israelis and the Palestinians claiming he was rooting for their team.

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