Politics, Football and Trump

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezOctober 1, 2017
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What a difference a week makes, last Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, might have been the biggest protest in the NFL.  Players, coaches, and even owners protested.  They protested because of the insensitive remarks made by President Trump Friday in Alabama.  There were also protests in baseball games and among basketball players. As usual, there were different reactions, those who dislike Trump were outraged but his supporters were gleeful.  And Facebook, Tweeter, and other social media sites lighted up like there was no tomorrow.  Many conversations have been held about players exercising their freedom of speech and disrespecting the national anthem or the flag. These were the exact remarks made by President Trump,“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,” Out! He’s fired. He’s fired.”  Nonetheless, protests have started fading away as the President has taken on critics who are not happy with his administration’s response to the calamities facing people in Puerto Rico.

Freedom of Speech is vital for free societies to function.  It is a tool used by citizens to file grievances against their government and hold their representatives accountable.  Although this citizen’s right has limitations and usually just provides protection that is directly related to the government.  In other words, freedom of speech protection can’t be given to employees working for a private company.  It is complicated and complex but employers can regulate speech that might jeopardize their economic interest. Companies argue that they exist for the purpose of selling a service or producing a product.  And when employees engage in political controversy during working hours, this will directly affect the company’s bottom line. Therefore, this employee should be either stopped or be fired immediately.

Now, let’s go back to players kneeling down in stadiums while the national anthem is being played.  It is always good for our democracy seeing a citizen taking a stand. In this instance, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling down while the national anthem was being played.  He should be commended for his courage.  Mr. Kaepernick did it to protest police brutality against African Americans in many cities. However, citizens should also understand that positions that they take will not be embraced by everybody hence there might be some consequences for their actions.  That should be fair game and citizens should have no problems paying a price for their actions.  A point of contentious in this man’s action among fans and civic engaged citizens: Should a player just play football for which he is being paid and practices his civil liberties on his own time? Owners and most business people with companies argue that this man should be fired and no team should hire him. They also added that no fan who pays to watch football should be exposed to someone’s political point of view that they disagree with.

Throughout history, African American athletes have engaged in civil disobedience to protest discrimination and unfair treatment of their own community.  Countless acts of civil disobedience have been used by black athletes to force conversations of unjust policies or traditions in American society.   They have used their sports to take a stand against a social issue that was detrimental to their own communities. Yes, from John Carlos, 1968 Olympic U.S Medalist who raised his fists in silence in a Black Power salute during the national anthem to Mohammed Ali refused to enlist and engaged in a war he thought was a war of choice.

Political theorists tell us that this country can’t be the land of the free if a citizen is not allowed to criticize it.  And this can be done by taking a knee while the national anthem is being played or even burning a symbol such as the flag.  These citizens’ actions are within the bounds of democratic dialogue and should be protected by freedom of speech, these people argue.  Yes, it should be okay to burn those flags that might have been manufactured in China.  This is what free societies are all about.

We should always encourage people to speak up about our injustices, but many argue that athletes sometimes might exacerbate the problem and they might just overshadow the very problem they want to highlight.  Many people questioned whether it was easier to take a knee down rather than going into the community and do the hard work. Indeed, the work of mentoring young people and helping to create opportunities for his community.  And many drew comparisons of Mr. Kaepernick with Rosa Park or Boxing legend Mohammed Ali.  It is not entirely clear if these comparisons might be fair since these legends had a robust track record of doing hard work for their communities before they engaged in symbolic gestures. The struggle for police brutality might have taken a back seat, as many think, as some see these protests as being about Mr. Kaepernick not being hired by no NFL team. It was interesting seeing NFL teams’ owners taking a knee with the player and yet as of today Mr. Kaepernick still unemployed.

One might ask, in light of the major problems dealing with poverty, inequality, opportunity and daunting challenges in the international arena, why would President Trump get involved with the current controversy going in the NFL?   This is the very reason why this president was elected, uneducated whites and others felt they could no longer say things they wanted to say.  Nobody would dare to call African American Players kneeling down while the national anthem is being played, “sons of bitches” for disrespecting the flag.  Whites can always count on this president to speak for them.  He clearly threw red meat to his supporters when he entered this controversy.

No surprise for many seeing this President getting involved in any controversy that relates to “nationalism.”  It was at the core of everything candidate Trump did while running for the White House.  This strategy successfully targeted anxieties of whites who really thought that their country was rapidly changing in a way that was undermining their way of life.  Yes, these whites felt economically marginalized and culturally eclipsed. Trump’s populism laced with nationalism was successfully sold to whites who desperately need a presidential candidate who could finally air their grievances.

Finally, it was recently revealed that former NFL player, Aaron Hernandez, who killed himself while serving time in prison had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  It was also disclosed that the NFL was fighting a lawsuit filed by this player. Maybe we shouldn’t be fighting the NFL to hire athletes rather we should be doing whatever we can to put them out of business.  Since most players end up with brain disease resulting from repeated head trauma.

Thank you for reading.


Works cited.

American President. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox. Warner Bros, 1995 Film.

Oppel Jr. A. Richard. “Steelers’ Villanueva Takes a Stand, but Might Agree With Kaepernick’s Mission.” New York Times 25 Sept. 2017.  Web. 25 Sept. 2017

Skelton, George. “The more Trump trumpets and tweets, the more he turns people off.” Los Angeles Times 28 Sept. 2017. Web. 1st Oct. 2017

“Shield and Brooks.”  Newshour. Public Broadcasting Service 29 Sept. 2017. Television.

Turner-Lee, Nico. “Protest, patriotism, and the history of black athletes in America.”  ttps://www.brookings.edu/podcast 29 Sept. 2017. Web. 1st Oct. 2017

Widener, E. Benjamin. The Frist Amendment “Playing Field”: Regulating Speech in the Workplace.” New Jersey Law Blog 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

Photo Credit: Photo of Colin Kaepernick, Reuters photo: Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)
Drawing of Mr. Kaepernick and Rosa Park on the bus was a screenshot from a shirt being sold online.


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