Some Americans say that sports and politics should never mix, but history suggests the two have always had a close relationship.
In 1992, NBA player Craig Hodges urged former President George H. W. Bush to end injustice in the African American community. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stood in prayer during the national anthem in 1992. And in, 2014 the St. Louis Rams players used the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture that was used by Ferguson protesters after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
While President Donald Trump may wish for a day where sports and politics didn’t mix, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the conversation again last year. By refusing to stand for the pre-game national anthem because he did not want to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick used his platform as an established athlete to invoke a message that he felt in his heart.
Yet Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job while countless washed up quarterbacks have been given contracts in a clear act of defiance against him by the NFL owners.
This past week, sports and politics collided again, when Trump embarrassed himself (and the nation) again on Twitter.
On Sept. 22 during his Alabama speech, Trump attacked the NFL and its players by saying that anyone who kneels during the national anthem is a “son of a bitch,” and should be fired. Trump claimed that if an NFL owner complied, he would be “the most popular person in this country” for taking action against a player.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted.
It was the first team that won an NBA championship since Trump took office earlier this year and none of the Golden State Warriors plan to visit the White House now.
“How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed [if you are] kneeling in protest?’” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military, but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter. Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.”
The President’s tweet was very childish, something that I have never seen from the White House prior to his election. It’s really disturbing as an American sports fan to witness when Trump would be better spent dealing with real problems the country is facing.
Even Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James took to Twitter to share his opinion about Trump’s tweet. James tweeted “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
It showed the unity of the NBA and the player’s decisions about this decision to avoid the White House. Because the NBA won’t allow its players to kneel during the national anthem, it brings the question: What can these public figures do?
On Sunday and Monday, NFL teams took a stance against Trump’s speech. Teams showed a united front and protested against what Trump said on Friday.
Some of the teams and players kneeled, stayed in the locker room, or interlocked arms during the national anthem. I was surprised that America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, and owner Jerry Jones joined in the showing the same solidarity that other teams showed during Monday Night’s Football game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The idea of respecting our national anthem, flag and country’s patriotic traditions is a norm drilled into Americans from childhood. America is a country to show your freedom of speech and beliefs in a correct manner.
What NFL players did this past week is speak and share their beliefs as American citizens, and in return, were booed by fans as they kneeled during the national anthem. This is what the U.S. military has fought for — free speech for American citizens. I think it’s great for players to share their stances to the public whether it is political or not, due to the fact that they have a platform to create a discussion to sensitive topics that they may personally be impacted by.
The two major sports in the country should have every right to protest, as they understand the essence and obligations of being an American citizen perhaps better than the country’s president. Too bad Trump is attacking them instead of learning from the real leaders.