No room for fun in progressives' identity politicization of sports
President Trump, like so many Americans, says there's no identity politics in "t-e-a-m." That some National Football League players choose to use the pre-game National Anthem as a forum for their protest about injustice is a divisive act. It is a slap in the face not only to the liberties they have that are protected by what the flag represents, but to those who fight the many other injustices in the world – and the world is filled with injustices.
Now President Trump has drawn the ire of the left for criticizing NFL players who kneel in protest during the National Anthem, saying team owners should fire them. CNN's Chris Cillizza calls it a "dark racial sentiment." (The racially obsessed left, it seems, can't come up with adjectives other than "dark" and "racist" for anything Trump says.)
Americans elected a president who disrupts the weeds and rot that have engulfed institutions such as the Washington political swamp, the United Nations, the mainstream media, and his own party.
Trump makes his points about his targets in a bold, calculated way. In writing about Trump's National Anthem remarks, the left's tantrum, and why this non-politician was elected in the first place, Rich Lowry at National Review notes that Trump "states it in an inflammatory way guaranteed to get everyone's attention and generate outrage among his critics. When those critics lash back at him, Trump is put in the position of getting attacked for a fairly commonsensical view."
The National Anthem protesters have a valid point about injustice, but their method is immature and employs the wrong forum. Yes, there are some bad cops and racism in America. There is injustice in America, but it's not the fault of the flag or the ideals for which it stands.
A high school coach was prohibited from an age-old practice of praying with his football team before a game. A farmer was banned from selling products at a market for holding the same Judeo-Christian beliefs about marriage espoused by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton before their conversions. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels organizations "hate groups" for advocating those same beliefs.
Before the economically and constitutionally rotting State of California elevated her from state attorney general to U.S. senator, Kamala Harris violated the principle of free association expressed in NAACP v. Alabama by demanding the names of donors to nonprofit groups, many of which stand in opposition to her radical left-wing policies.
Every day, government violates the Fourth Amendment protection of Americans' right of security in their private property and privacy.
The nature of these protests during the National Anthem – millionaire sports stars expressing what people see as disrespect for their flag, the men and women who fought and died for their liberty to protest, and the fans who stand for the anthem – isn't directed at the injustices they claim to protest. As symbolic protest, it sends the wrong signal. It shows disrespect to those who understand the values protected by the flag.
Professional sports have been an important part of America's breaking of racial barriers. Success in sports is based on talent, hard work, and merit. Racial barriers are as counter-productive in sports as they are anywhere in society. Team unity and success have no room for racial prejudice. Sports is a microcosm of what people who work together can do to succeed, to learn from failures, and to have hope and pride in what they do.
The NFL's financial success was based in part on its being an American institution that broke racial barriers and ignorance. The pre-game National Anthem is a unifying tradition of this institution. It shows pride in what is good about America, and there is a lot of good.
Players and teams have done great work for charities, their communities, and even sick and dying children. Now the league caters to politically correct corporate sponsors and wishes to become international. President Trump and many Americans see the politicized rot and weeds engulfing professional football.
What Trump understands is that the pre-game National Anthem is a moment of unity among opposing players and fans over something that's good and common among us regardless of our political or other differences. To use that moment and forum for protest is divisive and has no place in the sport.
I won't stop watching the NFL. Players such as Alejandro Villanueva, an Army ex-Ranger who did three tours in Afghanistan and who stood outside the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room to honor the National Anthem while his team remained inside based on indecisiveness of what to do to respond to President Trump, still inspire me. Progressives won't ruin my fun and love of the sport, but as with nearly everything else good about America, they are trying hard.