John Sims, a Detroit native, is a multi-media artist, writer, and producer.
We are indeed in hurricane season. This time it is the president who is blowing his whirlwind Trumpcane to the NFL by calling protest-kneelers “sons of bitches” and suggesting that they should be fired and that there should be a boycott of the of NFL if the owners do not “fire or suspend” offending players.
And now he has withdrawn the White House invitation to the “hesitating” Stephen Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
This is exactly the kind of behaviour from Trump that I forecasted in my recent piece, “Five reasons to like President Donald Trump” (aka “Trumpty Dumpty sat on US all”). And when you mix American sports, capitalism, white supremacy and black protest together, you are headed for nuclear social reset. So get your popcorn, favourite beer and fire extinguisher ready, because things are going to get very hot as we head to Super Bowl 2018.
American sports is a billion-dollar industry, a national pastime where communities are formed and reinforced by the nature of physical competition. From little leagues to college ball to baseball to boxing, and even to old men golfing, this nation loves its sports – more than healthcare, education and social justice. Winning high school sports programs are the crown jewels of many communities – sometimes, where literacy and graduation rates are embarrassing.
College sports, for example, define not only alumni identity and endowment-giving, but polarise millions of folks who haven’t even been to college. College coaches are gods, often making a higher salary than the presidents who hire them. People bet on sports, create fantasy leagues and date and divorce around the culture of sports.
READ MORE: Wave of protests grip NFL after Trump’s player comments
The mega-multitude of sports bars and arenas across the US should be more than enough evidence to show how enmeshed sports are in American culture. Detroit has one of the worst housing situations in the country, but it also has three professional sports stadiums. This addiction to sports is more powerful than crack, crystal meth and fidget spinners. And don’t even get me started about the grip that sneakers and sports-clothing culture has and had over the youth of today, yesterday and yester-yesterday. And when you add alcohol to sports spectatorship, as many fans do, you just might get all the elements for folks to reveal how they really feel and think, plus some added violence.
|How can [President Trump] call kneelers ‘sons of bitches’ but say that some of the folks on the side of the KKK and Neo-Confederates are ‘good people’?|
However to be fair – and interestingly enough – sports have also been the place to make the biggest statements about the myth of group supremacy and the hope for social equality.
We saw this with Jesse Owens in the 1933 Olympics. I am sure Hitler was pissed that a black man outran his supposedly superior Aryans and while white America (the racist ones, too) rejoiced in victory, black America basked in redemption and collective pride. Jackie Robinson’s role in the integration of baseball changed American sports forever, while Billie Jean beating Bobby Riggs in tennis was a victory for both women in tennis and feminism. And off the playing field, the great Muhammad Ali gave America its most stunning knockout punch when he showed our nation that integrity and moral consciousness are more important than championships titles.
Many sports heroes have done plenty to advance social and political issues both then and now. The question is whether we are doing enough to support their actions, not after the fact or decades later, but in the moment of need. Maybe we should ask Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the black Olympic medalists who raised their black-gloved fists in the name of protest almost 50 years ago, only to be met afterwards with instant rejection. Also, we should ask Colin Kaepernick.
OPINION: Blackballing Kaepernick – Fear of the black athlete
We like (American) football. Hail Mary passes for last-second touchdowns, fumbles, fourth down and two inches, out-of-nowhere interceptions and running backs who defy the laws of physics are all the things that parallel the ups and downs of life. We are all looking for that touchdown. Plus, the Super Bowl is the most watched event in the world featuring halftime performances from pop stars and the introduction of new, witty, clever advertisements.
So last season when Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) took a knee during the national anthem to make a statement about police brutality against black and brown men, he created a national stir. This was a bold and courageous move, given that about 70 percent of NFL players are black men, while 83 percent of the fans are white (64 percent white men) and almost all of the owners are white. His protest seems to have cost him his job, since he is still unsigned even when less-skilled quarterbacks have been picked up, which raises the question of whether or not he has been penalised for protest behaviour. Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association named Kaepernick an MVP for his philanthropy and activism, and countless other NFL players, athletes from other sports and celebrities have made statements of support. But still no job. And it is unclear how the owners think they can get away with this without a serious backlash.
And why, and forgive me for asking, are we playing the national anthem at sports games anyway? So we can fake sing words we don’t know? Shouldn’t there be a separation between sports and state, like there is between church and state?
Nevertheless, after his Alabama speech President Trump where he chimed in on all of this, he added fuel to fire with this tweet: