Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trump's Sports Race To The Bottom

Even CNN's Chris Cillizza has figured out that Donald Trump is playing to white supremacy by attacking black NFL and NBA players as "disrepectful" and "ungrateful" for daring to protest.

On one level, this is classic Trump. He feels as though he is being disrespected -- whether by NFL players not standing for the national anthem or by Curry saying if it was up to him, the Golden State Warriors would not visit the White House. (The Warriors, in a statement Saturday afternoon, said they would come to Washington and do events to promote diversity and inclusiveness rather than meet with Trump.) 
They hit him, so he hit back. 
But, there's something far more pernicious here. Both the NFL and the NBA are sports in which the vast majority of the players are black and the vast majority of owners are white. In the NFL, there are 0 black owners of the 32 teams. In the NBA, Michael Jordan is the lone black owner of a team. 
Consider that in the context of what Trump said both Friday night and Saturday.
In Alabama, Trump called the players who refuse to stand for the anthem "sons of bitches" and insisted that any owner worth his or her salt should fire them immediately.
That got a lot of attention -- and rightly so. But it's what Trump said next that's really telling. "Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," he said --- adding for emphasis: "Everything that we stand for." 
Notice the use of "our heritage" and "we" in those two sentences above
But wait, there's more. In both his Curry tweet and his two NFL tweets, Trump expressed frustration that these lucky athletes felt the need to be ungrateful. 
Trump noted the "great honor" of going to the White House and the "privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL." You should just be thankful for what you have and not be making any trouble, Trump is telling these players. 
Here's the thing: Even if we lived in a color-blind society, that would be a dangerous sentiment. After all, freedom of expression is right there in the First Amendment. And our brave soldiers didn't fight and die so that everyone stood during the national anthem. They fought so people could have the right to make a choice about whether or not they wanted to stand. That's the whole damn point of the First Amendment. 
The thing is: We don't live in a color-blind society. Slavery sits at the founding roots of America. The goal of racial equality remains a goal, not an achievement. To pretend otherwise is to willfully blind yourself to hundreds years of history.

And I will say this again: it's so obvious that this is being driven by Trump's racial animus towards successful black people (and there's a slew of successful black people that Trump has personally singled out and attacked, reporter April Ryan,  Merck CEO Ken Frazier, sportscaster Jemelle Hill, now Colin Kaepernick and the NBA's Steph Curry)

Everything you need to know about this is that several NFL players not only took a knee during the anthem to protest this week, at least three teams, the Steelers, the Titans and Seahawks skipped the anthem altogether.  Meanwhile, NASCAR owners say they will happily take retribution out on drivers and crew who get the idea to join the protest.

Sports and protest, especially civil rights protests, have long been part of America.  For Trump to not see this coming is ridiculous. Some even say he's counting on it.

We'll see.

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