Editorial: Sports Play A Part In Racial Debate



FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2016 file photo, from left, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel in protest during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

At a time in our country where we are divided by so many issues, it is no surprise that politics would be brought into our collective sports watching weekends. Usually, it is sports that unites us.  With the president of the United States tweeting whatever comes to his mind, the response to his tweets and his public commentary is causing his many critics to spring into action on their own.

Ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat during the playing of the national anthem in August 2016, many athletes both professional and amateur across the nation have participated in this peaceful protest. The protests began after the live coverage of multiple national incidents where police were accused of unfair treatment involving African Americans. These acts of protest have gained enough attention on their own, but with President Trumps’ profane reaction to the protest they have gained even more attention.

At a rally Friday night President Trump referred to athletes who peacefully take a knee during the playing of the national anthem as “sons of bitches” that the National Football League (NFL) owners should “fire.” Trump claims that the protests are “a total disrespect of our heritage and everything we stand for.” In fact, what the athletes are doing is exercising their first amendment right to free speech. Having such a visible platform and using it to expose social injustice is important for the NFL players. In a league primarily dominated by African American players what better way is there to be able to address social injustices that are happening against their own people?

It has been suggested that because these players are highly paid that they owe some extra duty to the American flag.  No one ever questions the patriotism of the billionaire owners  and corporations who have the money to pay these players millions, though. Professional athletes are paid what the free enterprise value of their skills  and they, like the owners, are simply Americans like us all.

After the white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent, fifty-two percent of people surveyed said that Trump’s response to the violence was insufficient (Politico). In fact, Trump did not condemn the group that chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” or Neo-Nazis like James Alex Fields Jr., who is responsible for leaving one dead and nineteen injured after ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters. Instead he condemned hatred, bigotry, and violence “on many sides,” while suggesting there were good people on both sides.

Trump’s differing responses to these protests reflects his position regarding the United States racial climate. Targeting an NFL player for taking a knee and exercising their rights, but not targeting a hate group for inciting violence shows that addressing racism is not high on his priority list.

Trump claims that NFL protests are “a total disrespect of everything that [America] stands for,” when actually the opposite is true. Clearly, the president is not familiar with the first amendment of the constitution nor with what it stands for which is free speech.  Our service people actually fought and sacrificed for the right of American citizens to speak freely and peacefully on matters that concern them. We as Americans might not like the free speech we hear, but we must defend a citizen’s right to say it. That is what America stands for.