Regarding this President, the word “unprecedented” has been invoked so often as to have become as common as “the” and “and.” But this really was new – a sitting American President taking on the most popular American athlete (Curry) and the most popular American sport (pro football). Teddy Roosevelt called being President “a bully pulpit,” and certainly we all pay attention – whether we like it or not – when this President speaks/Tweets, but NBA and NFL players have an even bigger pulpit. We watch their games. We pay to see them perform. We buy their merchandise. We don’t really know them, but we like to think we do.
It’s one thing to goad a North Korean dictator – maybe not a great thing, but a different thing. I cannot for the life of me see the percentage in going after some of the most recognized American citizens for having the courage of their convictions. Maybe you disagree with the Athem protests. That’s your right. But it’s their right to do it. Maybe you wish it weren’t. But, borrowing from John Mellencamp, ain’t that America?
This is how crazy our world has gotten: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who often comes across as a ninny, offered a statement in rebuttal that sounded Rushmore-ready: “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”
And what is our President doing? Playing to his base? We note that the fire-the-kneeling-bums speech was delivered in Huntsville, Ala. At last check, Alabama folks like their college football. Some of those collegians become professionals. One was the NFL MVP in 2015. One plays wideout for the Atlanta Falcons. If either takes a knee before tomorrow’s games – not saying either will, just posing a hypothetical – do they become fire-worthy bums?
This President became President by not caring what anybody who wasn’t a supporter thought of him. In eight months and three days on the job, this President has dared any non-supporter to cast a kind thought his way. Sometimes sports becomes more than sports: Jesse Owens in Berlin, Muhammad Ali before the Supreme Court, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City. This President just ensured that this has become such a time.
As LeBron James Tweeted, “He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.” We say again: Our President is supposed to be the President of a United States of America. He seems bent on making it anything but.