Recently added to my ever growing list of reasons to despise the current president is the impossible position he put black NFL players in. He called players taking a knee during the national anthem-and please excuse my langue while I quote the president -“sons of bitches,” and then tweeted out what behavior he would tolerate from them while the anthem was playing.
This of course, as I’m sure The Divider-in-Chief had counted on, caused the protests to spread: Hundreds of players in the NFL and in other sports took a knee, locked arms or did not come out for the anthem at all. And is it really so hard to see how some might have viewed themselves as having no choice but to rebuke the president if they wanted to maintain their own sense of dignity?
Every young African American in this country, I’m confident in saying, has asked themselves what they would do if they were transported back to the Civil Rights Era. Having grown up in the much improved situation our parents and grandparents struggled and bled to secure for us, I seriously doubt I would be able to last long. I want to believe that having known more freedom than any black person who came before me in this country would make having a boot heel on my neck intolerable. I hope I would be unable to stay silent in the face of the unapologetic injustices and degrading treatment that defined all of American history up until that point.
I believe many in the NFL viewed the situation Trump created as their chance to answer that question, what would they do, for themselves. Trump labeled people exercising their 1st Amendment Rights to draw attention to racial injustice as being unpatriotic, and he told them they better show respect as he defined it or face the consequences that he was trying to gin up. He threatened their livelihood and effortlessly turned his base against them. He was an old, white racist demanding they comply with his inappropriate demands for no other reason than to demonstrate he had power over them. In essence, he said, “Dance, boy, or else!” All the while salivating at the prospect they would continue to kneel so he could continue feed his base.
In response to his efforts to cow them, many chose to kneel. They knelt to draw attention to the injustices people of color face in this country. They knelt despite threats from the President of United States to try to ruin their livelihoods. They knelt because they live in a country where the President of the United States would try to ruin their livelihoods. They knelt simply to say in the face of a bigot, “I am not scared of you!”
Personally, I don’t think Trump gives a damn about the flag or this country. If given the chance does anyone doubt he would make himself emperor for life, do away with law and order (at least as it relates to putting limits on him and his family) rename the country after himself and change our flag into some kind of tacky black and gold Trump logo?
Trump, the POW-insulting, Gold-Star-family-attacking draft dodger did all this to distract from his mishandling of Puerto Rico, the revelation that his family and top aids were ALL using personal emails to conduct official State business and, of course, the Russia probe, whose rope I’m sure he feels around his neck every time he has a quiet moment. And of course, he did it because he knew it would be pleasing to his flag waving (confederate and otherwise) base, who believe the only way to love America is to deny its history. They love a sport fueled by black bodies but become enraged when those same bodies use their voice to say anything other than “Thank you, white-America, for the opportunity to entertain you.”
Trump’s mischaracterization of the protests allowed his thankful base to conflate talking about racial injustice with attacking America. In turn, this gave them cover to continue doing what they’ve always done when issues of racial injustices come up: call the people pointing them out unpatriotic and ungrateful. And if you still believe it’s the method of protests people are upset about and not the message itself, take a look at the teams who took a knee before the anthem, but stood during it only to still get loudly booed. I’m sure those booing must have felt a chill run up their spin as they felt America returning to its greatness by following the President’s lead in telling these black men there is never an acceptable time or method to protest racial injustices.
SideBar: I do not doubt some people sincerely take issue with the protests because they view it as disrespectful, and that is fine. However, I will not even deal with the irony of people who go beyond that to demanding that a symbol of freedom come with mandatory demonstrations of patriotism, complete with consequences for noncompliance.