ALEX DAHLEM ’20 SPORTS EDITOR
President Donald Trump sparked a major controversy this past week when he suddenly and deliberately called out two major American professional athletes who have been vocal dissenters of his administration.
Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and Steph Curry, the all-star point guard for the Golden State Warriors were both subjects of twitter from the President after they projected their disdain for recent controversial statements and actions by Mr. Trump.
Curry, a member of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, prompted a response from the President after stating that he wasn’t sure if he would attend the White House ceremony in honor of his team. He later stated that the entire team was going to hold a vote to decide if they would attend. President Trump responded to Curry’s statements over twitter, saying; “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Although the interaction with Curry was quite tame for a president that has been engulfed in controversies, Trump used more colorful and conflicting language when firing at Kaepernick, a player famous for being the first to kneel during the National Anthem. Speaking at a rally for Senate special election candidate Luther Strange, Trump called for N.F.L. owners to fire those players who do not stand during the Anthem. The firestorm of accusations and denunciations that ensued throughout the sports and political worlds were quick and fierce. Supporters of the President claimed that the Anthem was sacred and that kneeling was a slap in the face to those who have served in the military, while players and owners alike emphasized that they were protesting within the same rights that those soldiers had fought to protect.
The arguments initiated by Mr. Trump peacefully and symbolically bumped heads on Sunday the 24th when most N.F.L. teams took the field. Beginning with the league’s annual game in London, dozens of players on the Baltimore Ravens kneeled during the National Anthem. Shortly thereafter, the Pittsburgh Steelers took the protests a step further and stayed in the locker room during the Anthem, a violation of league policy. The weight of the situation climbed to another level when Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive lineman for the Steelers and West Point graduate, decided to buck his teammates and stand on the field for the Anthem. According to an ESPN interview, Villanueva agrees with Kaepernick’s ability and reasoning behind the protests, however he is hesitant to agree with the disrespect to him and his fellow veterans that kneeling during the anthem might suggest. In other words, he is saying that there is a time and a place to air such justified arguments through protest, and the National Anthem is not one of them.
In addition to conflicts among the players, fans of the N.F.L. also took sides in this intensely complicated debate. Although the same dueling narratives regarding patriotism and first amendment rights were repeated, many fans expressed their distaste with Donald Trump’s initial coupling of politics and sports, a union that many believe should never occur.
As is common in situations like this, the hostility simmered down in the days following N.F.L. Sunday, however as the United States continues to deal with racial dilemmas it is impossible to deny that such occurrences will continue to creep into professional athletics, a sacred realm for American culture and an opportunistic realm for social activism.