Politics — and Racism — have ALWAYS been in Sports

The president likes stirring pots so much, maybe he should have been a chef. He seems to especially like to gin up energy against the NFL and Black sports figures who decide to take a stand (aka exercise their 1st Amendment rights). Black NFL players represent 68% of the league. Yet, he will tweet about the players and critique them for their salaries, while conveniently ignoring the Trump family wealth or the greater wealth of his appointees. Is his ire because the owners didn’t let him get a team once upon a time — or is he just racist?

Politics on the Field Aren’t New

Image for post
Image for post

For those who want to be shocked about athletes who have the balls to do more than dribble, where have you been? If politics weren’t in sports:

What about Jesse Owens in Germany?

How about Muhammad Ali?

How about John Carlos and Tommie Smith?

Why did Congress pass a $1.3TRILLION tax bill that included a small, little known provision to “Save Americas Pastime”, which denies minor league players a fair wage (and keeps baseball team owners happy & wealthy)?

Why did Trump have to promise that America would expedite visas for World Cup players coming to the Americas’ 2026 World Cup?

The Miami Dolphins debated — until public outcry made them change — how they might penalize their players for not respecting the anthem. Yet, America’s team owner, jerry jones, thinks the dallas cowboys (not deserving of capital letters) players must stand at game opening, even as the NFL backtracked on its rules.

And, the president, who stirred up the nonsensical patriotism debate, continues to pledge his allegiance to Russia. The racism masked as patriotism, is laughable, when the “Patriot-in-Chief” doesn’t even know the words to the song he claims worships.

Sports team owners and propaganda machines, like #FauxNews, have no right to try to restrict anyone’s 1st Amendment rights in America — this is still America, right?

Image for post
Image for post

Icons Matter — so do their fights

NBA legend, Oscar Robinson, called on all athletes — not just Black ones — to speak out against injustices that cannot be ignored any longer. As he accepted a sports Lifetime Achievement Award, Robinson, rightfully, challenged athletes (and the rest of us), “This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It’s all around you. LeBron James steps out, and I’m glad he does. I hope some other players do — because this is what they believe — I mean, what do you want players to do? Shut up and dribble?”

Image for post
Image for post

Robinson challenged athletes to stand up, like some used to do — before big paychecks came with big muzzles, which silence many athletes and entertainers. LeBron’s sports brilliance, philanthropic commitment and unapologetic social justice activism is the example players should follow — not the horrible examples of diminishing constitutional freedoms, which are trumped up by jerry jones, other owners and 45.

From College to the Pros - Activism

LA Chargers player, Cardale Jones, wasn’t intimidated into silence. While at THE Ohio State, playing as quarterback, Jones was advised — by a “fan”, no less — to stay out of the Black Lives Matter movement & concentrate on football. Jones, activist AND player let the fan have it.

“Jones replied: “Sorry Mr master, I aints allowed to tweet nothing but foolsball stuff. I donts want you to think I more than a foots ball playa sir””

Yaaaaaaaasssss!

As a student, he risked being blackballed as “troublesome” (like what has become the obvious fate of Colin Kaepernick, by the bigoted team owners — and fans), who only want their “property” to shut up and play. But, Jones stood by and stood up for his principles and for Black lives.

Athletes, actors & other citizens — who know their voice and value — will speak up.

Image for post
Image for post

Yes, politics have always been in sports. Think about how countries vie for the World Games, the Winter and Summer Olympics & other ratings grabbers/revenue generators. The billions of dollars that cities & countries might gain, via these competitive & lucrative, proposals are always politically sanctioned.

Clapback en français

Trevor Noah irked some in France for celebrating their World Cup victory by recognizing the African players who made the victory happen. Trevor expertly smacks down the selective national pride of the French Ambassador to the U.S. and other critics. He reminded them of the migrant politics & racism they deal with by NOT dealing with it. Trevor provides an elegant smackdown, that is a masterclass on race and identity politics. It is an amazingly powerful teachable moment, which SHOULD prompt his critics to rethink their position. The truth should remind them of the persistent issues of racism and xenophobia at home, that they want to ignore — but it probably won’t.

But, America…

The U.S. has it’s victorious teams that earn “world” rankings. And, most teams have foreign-born/residing players. For example, the 2018 Washington (D.C.) Capitals are Stanley Cup victors. The DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) fans cheered & groaned the team to its victory. Folks were in arenas, bars and streets when the team won & lost. But, with the final goal, folks were #ALLCAPS. Only those who got program books and follow the game know that many of these players aren’t U.S.-born. In victory, it doesn’t seem to matter (generally). Most have distant homelands.

These players who helped the Nations’ Capital are from Canada (a.k.a. our “foe”, according to Trump):

  • Thomas Wilson — Toronto, Canada
  • Brett Connolly— Campbell River, Canada
  • Madison Bowey — Winnipeg, Canada
  • Chandler Stephenson — Saskatoon, Canada
  • Alex Chiasson — Montreal, Canada
  • Devante Malik Smith-Pelly — Scarborough, Canada (He’s one of the few Black players in the leavue. And, note he plans to skip the team WH visit. Will his teammates — domestic & foreign-born — join him? If he stands up and boycotts, what will the president say?
  • Braden Holtby — Lloydminster, Canada
  • Jay Beagle — Calgary, Canada

Other countries round out the team:

  • André Burakovsky — Klagenfurt, Austria
  • Jakub Vrána — Prague, Czech Republic
  • Jakub Jeřábek — Pilsen, Czech Republic
  • Michal Kempný — Hodonin, Czechoslovakia
  • Lars Fosgaard Eller — Rødovre, Denmark
  • Philipp Grubauer — Rosenheim, Germany
  • Alexander Mikhailovich Ovechkin — Moscow, Russia (a big favorite of the league, who’sback in Russia with his wife and newborn)
  • Dmitry Vladimirovich Orlov — Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
  • Yevgeny Yevgenyevich Kuznetsov — Chelyabinsk, Russia
  • Nicklas Bäckström — Valbo, Sweden
  • Christian Djoos — Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Nathan Walker — Cardiff, United Kingdom
  • Timothy Leif “T. J.” Oshie — Mount Vernon, WA
  • Matthew Norman Niskanen — Virginia, MN
  • Pheonix Copley — North Pole, AK
  • Travis Boyd — Edina, MN
  • Shane Gersich — Chaska, MN
  • Brian Pinho — North Andover, Mass
  • John Carlson — Natick, MA
  • Richard Brooks Orpik — San Francisco, CA

If sports were run by this administration, the Stanley Cup winner Washington Capitals, has an immigration problem. Twenty of the 28 players were born outside of the U.S. And, note that eight of them are from that evil empire, called Canada.

President of Division

There so much to say about a president who mobilizes his followers around patriotism, but doesn’t know the words to a simple american song of patriotism. More egregious is to see the president salute people who have contributed to death of American citizens (Remembering Otto Warmbeer) — in contradiction to common sense protocol. He’s such a rebel”, his fans say. “He’s shaking things up like we wanted”, others beam. Sports most often generate national pride — this president is using them to generate division.

Who will stand?

NFL & NBA players have had their peers assaulted by police. Will they stand up or act like congressmen who have had their peers become victims of gun violence, and STILL fail to act?

We should all cheer people like Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Malcolm Jenkins, Steph Curry, LeBron James & others who have stood up for justice while on their playing fields and when off. Their voices must be multiplied, not silenced. If your elected official isn’t for justice, they aren’t for American values — even as they remain aspirational goals.

Here’s my adaptation on a somber poem, which challenges people to defend others, even if the injustice doesn’t impact you (yet).

First They Came For…

First they came for the Socialists (and Native Americans), and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist (or Native American).

Then they came for the Trade Unionists (and African slaves), and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist (or African).

Then they came for the Jews (and Japanese), and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew (or Japanese).

Recently, they came for Black people assaulted, killed and disproportionately incarcerated because of anti-Black racism, and I did not speak out — Because I was not Black.

They also came for Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid & other NFL players who stood up by taking a knee for Black Lives, and, still, I did not speak out — Because I was not an NFL player.

And, because they were EMBOLDENED by my silence, they separated families, imprisoned toddlers in “tender age shelters” , youth, mothers & fathers separately (they didn’t even care if babies were nursing), and finally, I started to speak up. But, did I wait too late? I let their growing mountain of lies to be twisted and stated as truths. I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE, but, my silence became consent.

How will I reconcile with all of the lives that I allowed with my silence?

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

The original poem (in BOLD) was written by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892 — 1984). I added a few contemporary references to reflect this current season of hate.

ATHLETES & sports fans: Does injustice make your uncomfortable or is it a mere inconvenience? Will it move you to take a stand, by taking a knee or will you be a faux patriot, by condemning people for embracing their 1st Amendment right?

Will you stand up?

Remember, the world is watching.

Image for post
Image for post

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store