Sports are entertaining, they provide people with a sense of belonging, and it’s an escape from the real world. In 2016 almost 112 million people watched Super Bowl 50 and over 80 thousand foreign tourists visited South Korea this past February for the Winter Olympics (Hughes, 2018). The sports market in North America alone was worth more than $60 billion in 2014 and as we are quickly approaching 2019 it is likely to reach or exceed $73 billion (Heitner, 2016). Why do so many people watch professional sports? Why are so many people passionate about sports teams more than anything else? People like sports for so many reasons.
Avid fans tend to hold a very strong identity to a specific team, they have a sense of loyalty to one particular athlete, and include themselves as part of the team in conversation using words like “we, my team, us, our.” The appeal of sport should be its simplicity and focus solely on the game. However, sports have become a huge money maker and one of the biggest markets. With money comes power and sports has become a big political influencer as well. (Macur, 2018) It is becoming less and less about the game as time goes on.
Sports can tell us so much about the current state of racism in the United States. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball in the 1940s, the Mexico City Olympics, and the Donald Sterling investigation all were indicators of our nation’s progress towards equality. (Blazak, 2017) Trump has insisted before that athletes should just “stick to sports” as if it is not appropriate to bring politics into sports.
However, sports and politics have a long history that many people tend to forget. In addition to that, African-American athletes began standing up and making their voices heard decades ago. The black power sault at the 1968 summer Olympics is a prime example of sport activism and can be compared to the Colin Kaepernick protest going on today. According to Amy Bass, author of Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete, “when it comes to American attitudes toward politically active black athletes, we’re still where we were on Oct. 16, 1968. “Literally nothing has changed,” It’s the exact same story.
” (Maraniss, 2018) Journalists are finding it harder to write only about the game as politics is constantly pushing its way through to overshadow the actual game that is being played. Athletes are able to use their high profile exposure to influence others and speak out on controversial topics while team owners try force their power over them since they are the ones holding the money. Just a month after the midterm elections and now halfway through the Trump term, sports and politics seem to go together.
Since taking office, President Trump has had numerous encounters with athletes, usually those who are African-American. In the same manner that athletes are able to use their public platforms to express their ideas, Donald Trump has been doing the same. In the early stages of his campaign for office, long before anyone could picture an inauguration he was blowing a dog whistle on racism. This paper will focus on the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) to show how President Trump has launched a social media attack on the “ungrateful black athlete”( Whack, 2018) in an effort to promote his own racist ideas.
President Trump is no stranger to sharing his opinions and sparking controversy that then turns into months of ongoing news coverage. Trump has a long history of racism. The article “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List” was published in The New York Times in January of 2018. The article highlighted numerous times Trump has publicly made racist comments dating back into the 1970’s. Aside from sexist remarks, more than half of the comments highlighted in this article were directed towards minority groups. President Trump has never refrained from making racist comments towards African-Americans and minority groups, whether they are outright or subtle underlying messages. He essentially began his presidential campaign with insisting that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
President Trump has been on record saying, “laziness is a trait in blacks” and “immigrants from Haiti all have AIDS” (Leonhardt, 2018). He has refused to denounce white nationalists and called them “very fine people” on national news but is very quick to highlight crimes that have been committed by African- Americans. A poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that more than half of the voters surveyed (57%) felt that Donald Trump is racist. (Eltagouri, 2018) The president, despite not being technological savvy has made Twitter his main weapon in his arsenal for attacking. According to a CNN study, since taking office Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to attack, target, and criticize more than 106 individuals. That number does not include the 200 NFL players who have knelt in protest to racial inequality and police brutality. (Krieg, 2018).
His social media following, and exposure only continues to grow. Trump’s obsession with Twitter stems from the fact that it allows him to hide behind his screen and in turn, he does not have to speak to the “fake” media as he has termed it. He is able to quietly and quickly spread his racist ideas to thousands of people by doing the bare minimum. According to Ian Haney Lopez, a legal scholar, the main message the president is spreading through his dog whistle politics via social media is ‘this is a white country, under threat from invading minorities” (Nuno, 2015). The one common thread between all the attacks Trump has launched on athletes is the medium used. Trump has found a way to effortlessly use Twitter to his benefit. Aside from the likes and retweets, his posts they are highlighted relentlessly on major news outlets while he puts forth the least amount of effort. “The jackpot of attention is almost guaranteed.
They appear, sometimes within minutes of being posted, in high-definition blowups on “Fox ; Friends” and “Morning Joe” and “Good Morning America.” They’re read, verbatim, by TV and radio anchors. They’re embedded in stories in newspapers and on news sites… They’re praised, attacked and analyzed endlessly by Washington’s talking heads.” (Carr, 2018).The main message Donald Trump has been promoting since the early stages of his campaign is to “Make America Great Again”. The only problem is that it is impossible to find a time in history when America was truly great.
Every decade has struggled with racism, equality and social issues. In a 2016 interview with The New York Times he pointed to the 1940’s and 1950’s saying, “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody” (Krieg, 2018). Through his actions and inability to condemn those at fault Donald Trump has given racists and white nationalists the feeling that they are empowered, supported and have a platform where they can speak out. Since taking power in the White House he has proven to be a touchstone for these types of people while blowing a dog whistle on racism. During nearly two years in office he has created a hostile and scary environment for the people of the United States, causing African- American athletes to speak up. The issue of kneeling during the national anthem in the NFL quickly escalated into a heated national debate about race and freedom of speech. The issue first arose in August 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers decided to sit during the national anthem (Witz, 2018). No one took notice at first but two years later it has become one of the most covered issues regarding the NFL and somehow it includes President Trump.
Kaepernick continued his protest but opted to kneel on the sidelines and many players began to follow him. On September 22nd of that year President Trump said NFL owners should punish the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” (Tatum,2017) Trump also explained on his Twitter account that “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and National Anthem.” Since the summer of 2016 more than 200 professional football players have taken a knee or chosen to sit during the national anthem (Jacabson, 2017). What the President fails to understand is that the issue has everything to do with race and nothing about the flag itself. He has an inability to see the racism problem in the United States.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told CNN “I can’t stand for the national anthem, I can’t stand right now. I’m not going to be standing until I see the equality and freedom” (Martin,2017). As a result of the back and forth controversy Colin Kaepernick was released from the 49’ers and was never signed by another team. There is not a single NFL that wants to sign Kaepernick and then have to endure the backlash and endure President Trumps outlandish attacks.
Donald Trump is incapable of having respect for minority groups. He has proven numerous times that he believes all racial stereotypes. It can be seen from various press conferences, interviews and a quick look at his Twitter profile that he has no issue letting his bias be known. President Trump sadly fails to recognize that our country lacks equality. His answer to solving any issue regarding immigration is deportation or building a wall. Which ironically is exactly what he said should happen to NFL players who refuse to stand. In an interview with Fox News he said “you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” (Edelman, 2018).
The majority of players in the NFL are African-American. The manner in which President Trump has reacted to this issue show that he does not care about racism. In the article “There would be no NFL without black players” published in The Washington Post, Shaun Harper explains that “it’s mostly black players who are expected to find other platforms through which to protest.
It also signals that the league is only interested in black men as laborers and entertainers, not as citizens” (Harper, 2018). President Trump has a history of insulting the intelligence of black athletes and public figures. In August 2018, he attacked again on Twitter on NBA star Lebron James and CNN news anchor Don Lemon. His racist attack happened after Lemon did an interview with Lebron James where he discussed the opening of his new I Promise School. The school opened in his hometown of Akron, Ohio and was designed for at-risk youth. The tweet read: Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon.
He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” (Feis,2018) By going after another black athlete President Trump only further proved his racism. The president is intentionally trying to divide our country over the issue of race. Trump has been forcing everything to become a racially charged issue. He has found a way to take something as simple as professional sports and take away the simplicity and escape that fans long for.
It can be seen from his numerous attacks that anytime a black athlete does something honorable or makes an accomplishment he feels the need to completely disregard it. President Trump cannot stand it when anyone from the black community is successful and getting positive exposure. The same thing happened in February of 2018 when Donald Trump revoked his invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to visit the White House after Stephen Curry said he was unsure if he would attend due to Trump’s perceived racism (Boniello, 2017). President Trump simply loses his mind when black athletes speak up against racism. When NFL quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, a white player skipped his teams championship visit to the White House the president didn’t have anything negative to say. This is because in the past Tom Brady has spoken positively of President Trump and he has even had a “Make American Great Again” hat hanging in his locker in the team locker room.(Thompson, 2017) However, Trump did not waste any time in rescinding his invitation to the Golden State Warriors and attacking Curry on Twitter. According to Adam Serwer, a political staff writer for The Atlantic, “the president’s quick and harsh criticism of Kaepernick, Curry and black NFL players stand in stark contrast to his slow and sad attempt to condemn the white supremacist and neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville Virginia last year.
(Thompson, 2017)The President’s decision to engage in debates and attack athletes shows his incompetence as a political leader. Because he lacks the political knowledge it takes to be an effective president, he has chosen to become a bully and fight the battles he knows he can win. During his candidacy he promised changes in health care, the economy and much more. But as President, his administration has yet to been able to come up with effective solutions for the problems in our country. Instead, the president has chosen to use his power to become a bully and target his biggest enemy, the black athlete.