On NFL: President Donald Trump avoids actual issue and Philadelphia Eagles
“The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday, June 4. “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry.”
Aside from the president’s tendency to capitalize random words, there is so much wrong with this, starting with the truth.
There were players who weren’t planning on attending a hypothetical White House scenario just after Super Bowl LII in February. Malcom Jenkins, Torrey Smith, Chris Long and LaGarrette Blount all said on Feb. 6, two days after the Super Bowl, they weren’t going. The gist was they didn’t respect the president in the first place, even before Trump did his latest ranting and raving on Twitter.
There’s also the fact that no member of the Eagles kneeled during the 2017-18 season, but don’t let the actual facts get in the way of a good temper tantrum.
But let’s get down to brass tacks — “staying in the locker room for the playing of our national anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling,” is, first of all, not the truth, and also not the point of the actual protests conducted.
As pundit Francis Maxwell said, Rosa Parks was not protesting the bus company when she sat in the front of a bus. She was protesting segregation. Ghandi didn’t have a thing against food by going on a hunger strike. He did so to call attention to India’s plight under British colonial rule and later to pacify differences between Hindus and Muslims in his country.
NFL players are not taking a knee because they hate the flag, the military or America. That is blatant distortion of the truth. They are protesting racism in the United States, in particular, police brutality on minorities. This should not come as a real shock as 68 percent of the league at last counting is some form of “minority.”
The real issue is still not the flag, anthem
Leaving aside that Trump and the NFL are mandating shows of patriotism, which has never led humanity astray, the president is distracting his followers with some easy dogwhistling — those people hate America — to avoid confronting the actual issue.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat and then took a knee — deciding to do the latter after a discussion with a former Green Beret Nate Boyer — to protest police brutality. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said to NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick was protesting cops killing African-Americans. We’re talking about Terrance Crutcher, who was shot while obeying police orders to keep his hands in the air and then placing them on his car.
We’re talking about Philando Castille, who was pulled over for a busted taillight. Castille informed the officer as a warning that he had a gun, for which he had a permit, and the officer shot him.
We’re talking about Alton Sterling, who was subdued on the ground by two police officers, yet shot.
We’re talking about Walter Scott who was shot in the back while fleeing a cop. No, Scott shouldn’t have fled, but if he’s fleeing, he was no imminent threat to the officer. The shooting wasn’t justified. A jury gave the cop 20 years.
If you’re reading this online, then there are video links to all of these shootings. You can see them with your own eyes. If you’re reading this in print, then Google any of the above names and watch the videos. They speak for themselves.
The police treat people of different ethnicity differently. That’s a reality — we can argue opinions, but not facts. Kaepernick and ensuing players were protesting that form of policing — not the flag or the anthem. I’d hope we’d all be protesting that type of law enforcement. I’d hope any president of this country would condemn that.
Why this matters
Another fun counter-argument to the NFL players taking a knee is that people want their sports to be “free of politics.” Sorry, folks, but that ship sailed a long time ago with Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and the Olympics, the last being political theater in so many ways.
Having sports “free from politics” is just another way of saying, “I’m burying my head in the sand. I don’t want to think about it.”
And Trump and the NFL are helping you out to that end by not talking about the root cause but by banning the protest, with the president playing on demagoguery of African-Americans or “the other.”
This is dangerous stuff, people. America and humanity in general have a bad history of blaming their misfortunes on “the other.” This may “just be sports,” but sports have a disproportionate influence on our society. Instead of exploiting racial stereotypes and fear, it’s time to confront the actual issues, Mr. President.