This year has been a year filled with exhilaration, exuberance, vivacity, suspense, and controversy in the national sports scene.
The Mayweather-McGregor fight was perhaps the most captivating sporting event in the world for 2017. Kyrie Irving got traded to the Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony is joining Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City and three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade is headed to the Cleveland Cavaliers to reunite with LeBron James.
The Cleveland Indians’ 22-game winning streak made American League history. And the GGG-Canelo boxing match made its mark not only as the best middleweight bout since Marvin Hagler versus Tommy Hearns but courted an overwhelming amount of controversy as it relates to corruption on the sport of boxing.
Though all of the aforementioned occurrences were intriguing, none of them are noted as the biggest news in sports. Rather, there is something else happening on the sports scene which has not only grabbed the attention of sports enthusiasts but has caught the eye this nation’s leaders, including politicians, celebrities, and educators, among several others.
Division, dissonance, and tension have seemed to prevail in the news over recent weeks in light of a string of controversial remarks, actions and gestures made by prominent sports figures and political figures.
History is being made before everyone’s eyes and never has this generation witnessed such tension between race, politics, and sports. Thus, the sports world has apparently instead shifted its focus to the political protests preceding every NFL game rather than the games themselves.
President Donald Trump, already believed to be one of the most polarizing political figures in American history, has yet again struck with a series of provocative remarks directed toward athletic figures, which the majority of the sports world along with Black America are outraged by.
In a recent rally in Huntsville, Ala., Trump decried the nonviolent protests of NFL athletes, coaches, and owners, who, in solidarity, have been kneeling rather than standing during the playing of the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners – when somebody disrespects our flag – to say get that son of an [expletive] off the field right now, out, he’s fired,” Trump said at the Luther Strange rally in reference to anthem kneelers.
“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for… And I know we have freedoms and we have freedom of choice and many, many different freedoms, but you know what: it’s still totally disrespectful.”
Expectedly, Trump received a great deal of backlash for his distasteful verbal attacks on, mostly, Black athletes who are simply exercising their constitutional rights as American citizens. Noticeably, Trump has failed to address recent racist activity of corrupt policemen and the Klansmen in Charlottesville, Va., in the same manner.
He responded to harsh criticism in a tweet from Sept. 25: “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag, and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Unsurprisingly, the White House reportedly stands by Trump’s ‘S-O-B’ comments directed towards kneeling protesters, which reveals the true white supremacist essence of the U.S. power structure.
Shannon Sharpe, a former NFL tight end and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee, appeared to know precisely why Trump has targeted the NFL and its protestors.
“There’s something that’s going on in America right now that’s more valuable than Google and Apple stock, it’s more valuable than gold and bitcoin – it’s called race. It’s very valuable, and President Trump, he understands that,” said Sharpe, a co-host of sports debate show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, in a recent segment on the show.
Sharpe also expressed displeasure with NFL owners, some of whom endorsed Trump and have remained silent amid Trump’s presidency and racial injustice, but suddenly appear to be making an effort to unify with NFL athletes when absurdly spoken against.
“I’m unimpressed because this wasn’t protest. This was unity… We’re showing solidarity because of President Trump, he challenged the very men, wealthy, wealthy men, billionaires – and he told them what you should do if someone protests,” Sharpe said.
“They’ve [NFL team owners] allowed him [Trump] to attack so many groups in America. It wasn’t until he came for one of 32 and 1,600 men, and only a handful of them have ever kneeled in protest. And he called them an s.o.b, and that shocked the conscience.
“So what are we uniting against? What are we standing for now? If that is what it took – what he [Trump] said – is that is what shocked your conscience? Is that what made you choose to unite? So be it. But there’s a bigger issue, and the issue is the racism and the injustices in America in which Colin Kaepernick took a knee for in the beginning, and only Martellus and Michael Bennett, and Malcolm Jenkins and a handful still understand what the issues are.”
In addition to Sharpe, numerous Black celebrities and notable figures have voiced strong support for Kaepernick’s transformative protests, which began when the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback began taking a knee during pre-game anthems to protest racial discrimination and police brutality. Since then, the protests have indeed intensified.
To some Kaepernick is an ignominy, and to some, he is a hero, revolutionary, a game-changer.
Socially conscious members of society recognize that protesters are in no way or form “disrespecting” the American flag, military or anthem by kneeling but are instead exercising a fundamental First Amendment right. And those who are racially conscious realize that the national anthem dispute is an issue of race, not national disrespect.
Though a great deal of the American public may value the U.S. flag as a symbol of freedom and prosperity, these recent protests and social unrest have impelled a number of Americans to view the American flag and the National Anthem differently.
For years, a considerable portion of Black America rightfully deemed the U.S. flag and anthem as symbols of racism, oppression, and hypocrisy, but it is the hope of Kaepernick, Richard Sherman, and others that these unified protests will be eye-openers to those who might cherish the flag and national anthem.
The nationwide furor surrounding these sideline demonstrations reveal deep-seated realities about the racism increasingly evident in the American sports industry, the American flag, the American anthem, and American hegemonic society in general.
Everyone won’t see eye-to-eye on these nonviolent acts of objection to the power structure, but hopefully, most of the nation – including President Trump – will come to understand the significance of the time in which we live. But only time will tell.
Demetrius Dillard is a North Carolina-based freelance writer. He can be contacted at email@example.com