Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Steve Kerr are all making a huge mistake taking on Donald Trump. This is a battle they will lose. As much as Americans love their sports and support their teams, we love our country more. We’ve been taught to sing our anthem and pledge our allegiance as toddlers, because this is the greatest country on God’s green earth. It is foolish to put yourself between a patriot and the flag.
That is what Colin Kaepernick did in 2016 when he decided that riding the pine wasn’t good enough for his talented self. Instead, he wanted to make a statement.
Initially there wasn’t any coherence to his protest. He could not articulate what he was protesting. In a country run by a mixed-race man, considered African-American or black skinned, a similarly mixed race and privileged man was pointing out the injustice in our nation by insulting those other Americans who have fought, bled and died for his right to speak his mind through words and deeds.
He attempted to link his displeasure to the 2014 events in Ferguson, MO where an unarmed black young man assaulted a police officer and was killed as a result. The facts of the case have since been reviewed. Clear-thinking men and women believe that Darren Wilson was rightly exonerated. However, riots in Ferguson followed claims of institutional racism in police departments throughout the country. Thus, began the season of our national discontent and the degradation of newly tense race relations.
Since 2014, the media has emphasized other police involved shootings. These unfortunate confrontations were examined. Some were considered unjustified and many punished. The officer in the shooting of Philando Castile was found not guilty. Heather Mac Donald has published the War on Cops and in an interview with Rush Limbaugh confirmed that the Justice Department under Obama came out with a report in March of 2015 that found that black and Hispanic officers were actually far more likely to shoot unarmed black suspects. In “Hands up don’t shoot” became the rallying cry of misinformed and misleading athletes. Tavon Austin and four members of the formerly St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams demonstrated during the team’s charge onto the field in 2014.
Later that year, in December of 2014, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and other NBA athletes also protested police brutality during warmups at NBA games. They rightly noted that the choke hold applied to Eric Garner who was selling single cigarettes was excessive. However, there was no evidence that this was racially motivated. And Garner’s weight as well as the officer’s judgement about resistance from a large man complicate the accusations of intent. Yet, this was certainly an expression of policing actions that went beyond warranted force.
Colin Kaepernick made his sports related protest an attack on the American national anthem. Michael Bennett and others have followed his lead. If only Kaepernick was as good a quarterback as he is a social activist we might have been spared his rage. And we’ve witnessed a variety of other protests against institutional racism, including two 8-year old pee wee league teams under the tutelage of coaches taking a knee during the anthem. However, this claim of systematic racism is false and the protest target is misplaced. If anything, these men need to speak to the inner-city neighborhoods that are laced with crime.
Where is the protest against violence and gangs in Chicago that have claimed the lives of 516 people and wounded 2317?
Enter Donald J. Trump.
Launching a profanity laced salvo at the NFL protesters Trump drew a bright line between himself and those who defame our nation. He recommended that owners fire the SOBs who are protesting the national anthem. 70% of American are opposed to these protests. It would appear that Trump is in good company, even though he’s using bad language.
Trump also suggested that people who are opposed to these protests leave the stands. Viewership is down. Attendance is down. Enthusiasm for the game is down, and we’ve lost the warrior mentality when moms won’t let boys play violent game. Again, clearly Trump is joining a wave of blowback against these protests. Many other people express the fact that the politicization of sports from Bob Costas to ESPN have degraded our national pastimes. We are left with the question: do I have to turn off NFL and NBA games to retain my love of country? If professional sports are no longer neutral ground in our cultural wars, where do we go to cheer and celebrate the heights of skill and courage?
The Golden State Warriors were debating whether or not to attend the Whitehouse ceremony allegedly because President Trump didn’t denounce racism (which he did) fast enough (which he did) or clearly enough (which he did). Like gang banger’s drive by shootings in Chicago these media induced outrages have collateral damage and in many cases, include self-inflicted wounds. Trump withdrew the invitation. And LeBron tweeted like a child that Curry already said he didn’t want to go (but they were still going to vote as a team).
Earlier this month Floyd Mayweather commented on the way that the media has labeled Trump a racist. “I think a lot, within this world, like I said, racism still exists. You never heard anything about Donald Trump being racist until he ran for president and won.” Only after his presidential campaign and winning the White House was Trump labeled a racist. Welcome to the GOP club Don.
Trump knows that the Democrats operate in a media fed fury. The tax and budget plans are coming due, and DACA is on the clock. He’s aware that stirring the pot will distract the media and limit their ability to spread disinformation about the health care bill. Trump is willing to take incoming fire, to give his surrogates cover to work out what should be slam-dunk Healthcare bill and tax reform plans. That is unless you are LeBron James, then these are three-pointers.
After a rousing UN speech Trump instigated a war of words with Kim Jung Un. These insults mask the fact that arguing with a madman will only create madness. Trump is provoking Un at the UN to undo our strategic restraint and open the floodgates of retaliation. Readying the military for a strike on North Korea requires more than simply arranging ships and jets. The element of surprise for a US attack, responsive or preemptive, may be provided by casting shade by kicking the hornets’ nest of domestic issues. Trump understands how to change the narrative on a dime and continue to put pressure on the media to track multiple angles.
For the media and the establishment, choosing to fight Trump on his own turf with his base of support is a strategic error induced by a tactical genius. Trump is able to incite his enemies, draw out their hatred and capitalize on their disorganization. This is true of the Dear Leader of North Korea and the liberals. It is possible that this is evidence of a pattern, and this is what winning looks like – taking the fight to them.