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Op-Ed: When Sports, Politics, Race and Protest Collide

The last few days have been some of the most interesting, polarizing, and controversial the country, let alone the sports world has seen in a long time.

President Donald Trump stole the limelight when he was involved in a Twitter war vs. seemingly everyone, even some of his former supporters.

Friday, at their media day, members of the Golden State Warriors made mention of their decision to not visit the White House in what has become a tradition of champions in the United States for decades.

When asked, Steph Curry reiterated his stance on not wanting to visit the White House if invited because of his disagreements with the President over a multitude of issues, most stemming from Trump’s lack of distancing himself from known white supremacist groups that many believe helped his rise to the highest position in the free world.

The fire only grew, as various members of the NBA community were as equally appalled by the incendiary tweets that Trump spewed following Curry’s opinion on the matter. The feelings of anger and angst turned into an inferno as the President even called the NFL players “Sons of Bitches” if they protested along with Colin Keapernick, in an effort to bring an end to police brutality and shine a light on inequality faced throughout the country by people of color.

Sunday NFL Players voiced their opinions by standing arm in arm, kneeling, embracing one another or standing in the tunnel out of view of everyone while the National Anthem played. Alejandro Villanueva, Army Veteran and West Point Graduate, was the lone Pittsburgh Steeler to be seen during the National Anthem.

This show of unity throughout the NFL led former Trump Supporter Rex Ryan to explain why he is no longer and has not been for a while, a Trump supporter.

The NFL player protests, the Warriors decision to skip the White House and the current state of Colin Keapernick’s NFL career all made me to ask some of my most respected friends, former co-workers and members of the media their opinions on the matter.

 “It’s ironic that so many players are kneeling, and the man who started it all is still being blackballed.” One source close to me said. 

The sad truth is that Colin Keapernick is still without a job while a player like Brock Osweiler, who is being paid $15 Million to not play for the Cleveland Browns, but is a backup in Denver, can somehow have a career, is befuddling to some… myself included. Keapernick’s numbers on the football field are not staggering by any means, but they are more than respectable, and better than 10-15 of the current starters in the NFL today.

“As a bi-racial American citizen, I feel the need to join this protest to fight for my rights. If our president sees our athletes as ‘sons of bitches’, what more does this country have to offer?”“(We) both pledged to give our life for that flag, have had fallen brothers caskets with that flag draped on it. Those same brothers gave their lives and would do it again so those disgraceful punks can disrespect it? The flag is NOT the police force.”

The divide has grown wider as the current state of our nation, and the sports world, are put to the test with the President’s comments and those who are fighting for equality, while seemingly offending others. As was put to me in a private conversation. I myself am a veteran of the US Air Force. I love and respect everything that the Flag stands for and I, at time tear up when I hear the anthem played, remembering how grateful I am to be in this country.

I asked a friend, a successful African American man, who is also a veteran.

“…It is both courageous and inspiring. The fact that even in 2017 equality does not exist. What players want is simply, equality. To be able to live their life without being threatened because of the color of their skin… you use the only platform you have, SPORTS!”

Sports have been an outlet for many. We applauded Muhammad Ali when he protested the Vietnam War. We begged for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to stand up and voice their opinions. Now we have someone standing up for the little guy, shining a light on the subject, and he is shunned. Plenty of people have questions when it comes to the protests.

“I would support the protests, but I don’t know what it is about. Is it about racial inequality? Is it about the President calling the NFL players “SOB’s”? Todays protests weren’t about racial inequality, that’s what needs to be remembered, they were about the words President Trump said about the NFL protesters being fired, regardless of skin color.”

It is in fact the reality. The NFL player protests were not fully about racial inequality and that is where the confusion is. Yes the protests initially started off that way and the underlying tone is there, but that original message was lost Sunday.

“They felt the need to rise up against a racist President that called white supremacists ‘fine people’ but called them ‘sons of bitches… it blew up today because of what he said”

The highest position in the world, the one with the most power, respect and eyes on it has long been that of President of the United States. The President has long been respected, but this time it seems like the man in office is more polarizing than John Cena or Tony Romo. The words of hate or truth, however you see it, have driven a divide in the country, but if you support the president are you a white supremacist? Is the President, in fact, a white supremacist?

“Trump’s daughter married an Orthodox Jew and converted to Orthodox herself. As much as he’s enabled White Supremacists and hasn’t really distanced himself, a true White Supremacist would NEVER allow their daughter to marry someone like that.”

There is some truth in that, but the President has in fact not distanced himself from the shadow of White Supremacy. We can say he is not a Nazi, but is he a racist? Does he truly speak for those who are too scared to speak for themselves when it comes to the issue of race? I think of this as a Smoke and Mirrors tactic of his to distract from the issue that is North Korea.

Is it the fact that he had a long-standing fight with the NFL?

“… He’s had it out for the NFL since the USFL days.”

Ah, the USFL, the ill-fated business venture of one Donald Trump that failed, a common theme of his. Something that made people respect him was his ability to bounce back, build himself back up after a failure, but now the steaks are larger than what they were for Trump back then, it’s the fate of an entire country.

I am like most people, I respect the NFL Players for their protest, but I for one don’t know where the end goal is. How can we stop it? Are we destined to protest forever? What is the goal in mind, every protest needs to have a goal or it falls flat. When I asked 20 different people the answers were eerily similar.

“I don’t think there will ever be a solution.” Said an up and coming Sports Journalist

“That’s the million dollar question.” Was the sentiment of a veteran.

“This will never end, as violence and injustice will always be a part of our society and nation. All we can do is fight for our beliefs and hope that our voices a heard loud and clear.” This was the answer from a well-known and respected sports radio host.

The answer is much more complex than an already volatile situation. What happens next? Where does this saga go from now? But most importantly where does this leave a nation divided?

***

 

 

Author – Mike Tipton (shootoutpodcast@google.com ) is a graduate of Socorro High School and current UTEP student. He spent 3 years in the US Air Force and love to travel. Mike currently works at ESPN as a production assistant for ESPN Radio. He hopes to one day have his own local radio show in El Paso. 

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8 comments

  1. Good insight on a complex issue that is a microcosm of the divide in the country. People cannot take a stance, cannot speak about, or submit a tweet or post about an issue without someone screaming at you. Even family. The issue that has been talked about could go away if the players understood that many see them just as elitist as the President, because of the disparity in the common mans pay versus what they are paid. They don’t understand that they are the 1%ers now. It is also true that the President, just like so many before him, has a right to speak his mind but he must understand that he is supposed to represent us all and that all has both sides of this issue. Mike Tipton touched on an important question. What is the original reason for the protest and how did it evolve into such a stance now? The fact is that the NFL is a non-profit business getting the same tax status as the Red Cross, Samaritans Purse, associations and organizations that help people. That is a true injustice demanded by the NFL. It is also true that the NFL demands taxpayers pay for their stadiums, their offices, playing fields and so much more. And it is also true that players, because of their newly found success and money now are listened to. Wealth and fame allow them to get a voice. Where does it end? No end in sight so long as the feelings on every side are so muddled. Oprah was on 60 minutes Sunday and held a very interesting “chat” with people of a diverse background. While they disagreed on the kneeling issue almost all said they stayed up at night most when thinking about a new civil war right here inside the United States. This President needs to understand this as do those inciting players and teams. The NFL needs to respect as much as they want to be respected. If these parties don’t then we will indeed step one place closer to disaster in the streets.

  2. I can assure you that I will not watch any NFL games this year, nor will I watch any ESPN programming.

  3. The whole issue here started last year when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at every NFL game.And he is well within his right to protest against the killing by white cops against African Americans! The killings has been going on for some time now,but got the nations attention during Black Lives Matter protest in Ferguson Missouri when a white cop intentionally killed a unarmed black man.
    It has nothing to do about disrespecting our Nations Flag or the playing of the National Anthem! this is in total protest of the continuous killings by white cops against black people on numerous occasions.
    To make matter worst, now of all people, Donald Trump has gotten involved when he has become part of the problem.There are those that see the matter from different perspectives as Donald Trump has continue to divide our Great Nation starting on June 16 2015. When he rode down the Trump Tower escalator announcing his bid for the presidency by calling Mexicans rapist,drug dealers and murderers.And the building of the border wall and repealing Obamacare among many other obstructional tactics.
    From there on he went after senator John McCain for getting captured during the Vietnam War,the Muslim community travel ban and attacked a Gold Star family.
    This drama fiasco keeps getting worst day by day! the firing of FBI Director James Comey,the ongoing Robert Mueller Investigation and now attacking the NFL and the NBA. Not to mention the very dangerous North Korea issue with the ongoing name calling Rocketman and again at his hate rallies in Alabama with the Lock Her Up Chants!
    Failing to recognized the Russian involvement of our presidential elections in 2016,and this just goes on and on with his own denial. Russian president Vladimir Putin has Donald Trump right where he wants him!
    Donald Trump embarrassed the United States at the United Nations General Assembly last week,today it’s the NFL, tomorrow more deflections by Donald Trump! And it’s only been 9 months and his wickedness has no end insight! It’s not going to deter me from watching the NFL or the NBA, but who knows, by next week maybe North Korea shoots down an American military aircraft or a civilian aircraft.
    I miss president Barack Obama! the entire nation was in way better hands under his leadership! now the country is being run by a Dotard Trump! This is not cool, America,we need to do away with the electoral college,that’s what got this monster into the White House.

    • It was later proven that that thug Michael Brown was attacking the officer. Stay stupid, my friend!

      • Oh sure mad Mickey! tell me another fake lie. Besides that you get all your Fake news information from Breitbart News the Pro Alt-Right White Nationalist movement. WHO! me your friend? GET REAL YOU FOOL!

        • How does it feel, being such a racist?

          • You tell me Mad Mike! how does it feel to be such a racist? you blog over there at the KVIA forum. Where only KVIA allows racist White Nationalist like yourself to dominate their forum.Along with all your cyber bullies always attacking every single democrat/liberal with your racist rants.
            In which most of the times, all your racist White Nationalist Buddies have racially bad mouth president Obama because he is African American, Hillary Clinton, Congressman Beto O’Rourke,County Judge Veronica Escobar,and any democrat voter like myself.
            I know that Fort Bliss brought you to El Paso, and surely they didn’t give us their best by bringing you here.
            And I know that with all your threats you’ve made towards me that you are no different than that Las Vegas shooter.When you posted a picture of yourself posing as a militant holding that assault rifle. You do have a strange deranged, psychotic, militant mind Mad Mike!

          • You should speak for your own person Mad Mike! you know what you are. A True RACIST White Nationalist!
            YOU HATE ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR!

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