Despite Hell-on-Earth conditions in Puerto Rico (a territory of the United States) after the ravages of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, despite the very possible nuclear holocaust between the U.S. and North Korea, despite the possible destruction of healthcare benefits for tens of millions of Americans — our President is tweeting about...the National Football League.
And what is his beef with the much beloved NFL? That some players, and now many owners and coaches, are standing — and kneeling — with one Colin Kaepernick, a 49ers quarterback, who decided over a year ago to take a knee during the National Anthem. Kaepernick did this in protest of widespread police brutality against unarmed, innocent black men who were (and are) being gunned down in the streets by the men and women sworn to protect their communities.
This controversy originally flared up last year during the NFL season, and it had mostly died down, without a single team signing with the lightning rod Kaepernick this season due to his controversial nature (despite having one of the top selling jerseys of the year, according to Business Insider).
America had begun to move past this issue of NFL players taking a knee in protest during the National Anthem, until President Trump decided to make it headline news again.
On Friday, Sept. 22, at a campaign rally in Alabama, Trump declared in no uncertain terms that those “sons of b-----s” who refused to stand during the Anthem at NFL games should be banned from the field and FIRED!
In response to being called such a vile name on national television, hundreds of players either kneeled, locked arms with fellow players or stayed in their locker rooms during the Anthem just before their NFL games on the following Sunday, Sept. 24.
Even team owners who had openly supported and even helped fund Trump’s campaign, like New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, stood in solidarity with their players. Kraft even called Trump’s remarks attacking players “disappointing.”
Trump has continued to say that his derisive comments about the NFL have nothing to do with race, but only with defending the honor of the American Flag and all it stands for and for the U.S. Armed Forces that have sacrificed to defend it.
But let’s take a step back and examine how Trump has fought (or failed to fight) to defend those same values.
In July 2015, Trump attacked Arizona Senator John McCain, who was a U.S. prisoner of war for many years under the Viet Cong, saying that he prefered war heroes who “weren’t captured.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump attacked the Gold Star family of the Khans, who had lost a son in the Iraq War, after the father of the fallen Muslim U.S. soldier spoke out against Trump’s proposed Muslim ban at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
And more recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, after self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and white nationalists protested the removal of Confederate monuments, resulting in the death of a peaceful anti-racist protester, Trump failed to condemn this anti-American hatred.
Instead he equivocated and excused, saying on national TV that there were “good people” on the white nationalist side of the protest and that “both sides” were to blame for the horrific violence that occurred.
I’m forced to ask: what’s more offensive to the millions of U.S. soldiers who have fought and died for our nation and our freedom — a black pro athlete taking a knee during the Anthem or white nationalists proudly waving Nazi and Confederate flags?
My grandfather proudly fought in our military against the Nazis and all they stood for, and far too many of our ancestors fought and died fighting the traitorous Confederate army, so that all people could be free, regardless of their race.
I will also refer you to a few more of Trump’s recent tweets, that further display the racist overtones of this current culture war he’s created. Trump said in a recent tweet that black athletes in the NFL who have the privilege of earning millions should be fired if they don’t bow to his demand to stand for the Anthem — in other words, they should be grateful and keep their mouths shut.
Sorry, Donny — that’s not how it works. These athletes don’t have the privilege to play on the national stage: they’ve earned it. They sacrifice their bodies week in and week out. They worked harder than you’ll ever know to get where they are. There wouldn’t be an NFL without their endless hard work and sacrifice and the blood, sweat and tears they leave on the field. The vastly white and wealthy owners of NFL teams would have nothing if these players all refused to take the field.
The only privilege I can see, Mr. President, is from people like you, who were born into tremendous wealth, and who were lucky enough to dodge the Vietnam draft five times, once for “bone spurs” in your heel (which you later couldn’t even recall in which foot these debilitating spurs were).
When you excuse neo-Nazis and white supremacists literally flying enemy flags in public, and then attack peaceful black athletes exercising their Constitutional right to protest police violence, you make it very clear whose side you’re on. So please, stop telling us this petty fight has nothing to do with race.
Jonathan Baca is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @DailyLobo. The views expressed in this column are his own.