Sports, the final Trump frontier
Left: President Donald Trump. Right: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, and safety Eric Reid, right, kneel during the playing of the national anthem on Sept. 18, 2016 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
I couldn't care less about color in this world. I have a black father and a white mother and experienced just as much racism from both sides, neither one is better than the other through my spectrum. Sports was a get away for a majority of my life, whether playing or watching. It is the one platform that has no bias, it doesn’t care if you are black, white, Muslim, Christian, male or female, it has no agenda. Then Donald Trump provided his two cents.
I admit, I was oblivious to the world. As a Sports Editor here at the Daily Wildcat I refused to acknowledge the world around me that was filled with so much negativity and tragedy. I used to support our presidents no matter what. I believe they have the toughest job imaginable, every decision they make has an effect on someone. I don’t envy whoever takes on that role in the Oval Office. I spent 12 years of my life supporting the Constitution of the United States and obeying the orders of the officers appointed over me including the Commander-in-Chief. Half of my career was spent under the Bush administration and half the Obama administration, neither one had a particularly large impact on me. But the divisive comments from our current President place a decisive stain on the glory and respect of the highest role in our country.
Taking a knee was meant to bring light to a systemic oppression of black people, instead it has turned into an attack on America in some people’s eyes. Comments flooded social media this past weekend and it was awful. The one common theme to those who complained about the display, was that they refused to understand why. I say refused because if someone truly took the time to engage in discussion, they’d realize these athletes love this country just as much as them.
It doesn’t make you more American to scream and boo someone willing to take a stand and kneel against social injustice; it makes you a hypocrite. The failure to understand why these athletes are engaging in this during a televised football game is the exact reason as to why they are. You wouldn’t pay attention otherwise. The dialogue was supposed to have taken place after countless black men were killed at the hands of renegade cops, but it has since been pushed aside. Cops and first responders are great for our communities, they keep us safe. Outliers are the problem; the only discussion regarding the police was about them.
Being a veteran doesn’t mean you can refuse the right to allow people to express themselves peacefully in protest. In fact, I would argue you should have the moral aptitude to encourage it, that is what you served to protect.
It also shouldn’t be disrespectful to any veteran to take a knee during the National Anthem, nor is it a slap in the face to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is what we signed up for, to provide people with the right to express themselves freely. But this is different, this is a demonstration to bring awareness to a cause that some people in this country would like to ignore.
Don’t think so? Think progress can be made without this protest? Has anything been done recently to advance the discussion of racism and oppression in the year since Kaepernick first took a knee? No, at least not enough. Did Kaepernick do everything the right way? No, the pigs on his socks were a detriment to his message and a very bad move. A move that many simply cannot get over.
But we can’t get to a discussion about oppression within this country. Instead, we are faced with day-in, day-out assaults from the one person who is supposed to have the decorum to bring people together as best as he can…via Twitter. This isn’t Republican versus Democrat, this is black versus white. Trump stating to a room full of people in Alabama that players taking a knee are sons of bitches was the last straw. His conduct is unbecoming of a president.
“I think people have been enabled by an example we’ve been given, you’ve seen it in Charlottesville,” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich in a statement in front of the press during the opening day of training camp. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world…The discussion has to take place…Race is obviously the elephant in the room…People have to be made to feel uncomfortable.”
The “stick to sports” mantra is no more; it is not possible. Trump made it so. He has seemingly invaded every corner of life and finally reached the one platform where we as sports fans were able to find solace. It has extended beyond just the NFL as well. Trump rescinded an offer to host the world champion Golden State Warriors due to star Steph Curry’s refusal to go. Not exactly taking the high road.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to meet President Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama. I didn’t agree with all of them, but it was easy to set politics aside because each possessed an inherent respect for the office, as well as the humility that comes with being a public servant in an incredible position of power, representing 300 million people,” Golden State Warriors head coach and former Arizona Wildcat Steve Kerr said to the press on the opening day of training camp. “And that’s the problem now. In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President? And the way to do that is through compassion and dignity and being above the fray. Not causing the fray.”
Trump has entrenched himself against black athletes from Lebron James to Curry to Kaepernick. He called out former President Obama for his praise of Muslim athletes on Twitter saying that Obama was profiling, forgetting that two of the greatest athletes of our generation were in fact Muslim, Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He attacked the NFL, a league in which 70% of its players are black according to the Huffington Post and commended NASCAR, a sport where less than two percent of its fan base is black according to Nielsen ratings in a June article in the Washington Post. To say this isn’t a racial issue would be ignoring every sign Trump has tried to throw in your face.
His attack on NFL players was grotesquely overboard compared to the comments about Neo-Nazis protesting, where there were “very fine people on both sides” was surreal.
So when will he come to attack the NCAA? I don’t put anything past him. It’s not enough to worry about health care and the thousands of people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands struggling to hold on to life, instead this man has chosen to redirect his focus to pander to what will bring more satisfaction to his baseline demographic. It is only a matter of time before he attacks academic institutions and the teams that represent them.
His message of disrespecting the flag when it comes to taking a knee has blinded so many who can’t see past the “patriotism” banner. It is a cloak, one that gives people the courage to speak out against athletes for demonstrating in the most peaceful way possible without choosing to listen to why they are doing it. To say that taking a knee is disrespecting the flag is to admit you know nothing about what the flag stands for. How else should one protest?
People have said they agree with the protest but wish they’d do it on their time, what does that even mean? It wouldn’t bring light to the situation if Kaepernick just decided to walk out in his front yard and take a knee with his fist in the air, it’d just be weird. Vice President Mike Pence grandstanding during a day when the most popular Indianapolis Colt of all-time, Peyton Manning, had his name raised to the ring of honor, should show you just how much he cares about the NFL outside of attempting to use it for propaganda purposes.
Trump didn’t protest the NFL during “his” time, pretty sure he was on the tax payers clock.
Now, athletes have our attention. But will it mean anything moving forward? I don’t know. It takes humility and discourse to engage in fruitful conversations between two sides and quite honestly I am losing faith that this will ever come to be. Nothing in the past year has told me otherwise.
So we keep going, keep moving along with the hope that the division within our country will somehow come together and this will be another blip for the history books.
My fear is that we have only just begun.
Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter