‘U Bum’ rages James as athletes slam Trump

Bust-up: LeBron James: “Going to the White House was a great honour until you showed up.”

Is the US National Football League row actually about race? All across America yesterday players, most black, defied the president’s call to sack those who refuse to stand during the anthem.

Last year, NFL player Colin Kaepernick caused a media storm by repeatedly refusing to stand for the pre-game national anthem. He was protesting against racism and police brutality in America. Some were inspired. Others were outraged. But whether Kaepernick’s actions were right or wrong, President Obama insisted that he had a “constitutional right” to demonstrate.

Times have changed. Last Friday, Obama’s successor Donald Trump declared that any player who refuses to stand for the anthem is a “son of a bitch”, and should be “fired”. He then encouraged his supporters to “leave the stadium” if they ever witnessed a player protesting.

Whilst Trump’s audience cheered, a storm of criticism broke out on Twitter. Triple NBA champion LeBron James called Trump a “bum”, and Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy dubbed him an “asshole”. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell used more diplomatic language, saying that Trump’s comments were “divisive”, and showed a “lack of respect”.

And when it came to game-time yesterday morning, it was clear that Trump’s attack had failed. As “The Star-Spangled Banner” echoed around Wembley Stadium, over twenty players from the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars defiantly knelt. Even Jacksonville owner Shahid Khan, who donated $1m to Trump’s inauguration, joined his players on the pitch, linking arms in solidarity.

Khan is not the only NFL owner to back his players and defy Trump. The New England Patriots boss Robert Kraft, who also donated $1m to Trump’s inauguration, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the speech.

Other critics have gone further, accusing Trump of deliberately inflaming racial tensions for political gain. In the NFL 70% of players are black, and Trump’s speech was delivered to a predominantly white audience. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, accused Trump of “racial demagoguery”, and blasted him for portraying black athletes as “the focus of national contempt”.

But is this really a debate about race?

Kicking off

“It is part of his larger culture war,” claims Remnick, and many agree. Trump is dividing people based on race. By demanding that viewers boycott NFL games when they see black men protesting, he is saying that the public should not care about the huge problems facing African-American people. This is extremely dangerous and must be condemned.

“This is about patriotism, not race,” argue others. By disrespecting the national anthem, these players insult the very nation that has allowed them to succeed. And, whilst there are social issues which must be addressed, the sports field is not the place to do it. All players must stand for the anthem.

You Decide

  1. Should everyone sing the national anthem?
  2. Was Trump’s speech racist?

Activities

  1. Can you remember all the words to your national anthem? Try to write them out. What messages do the words have?
  2. Do some research and find some sporting figures who have used their sports to stage a political protest. Pick one example which you think is particularly important. Why was the sportsperson protesting? Was the protest successful?

Some People Say...

“Professional sport is not the place for political protest.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The “Flag Code” is US federal law which includes the requirement to stand for the national anthem. But the code is not enforced and there is no punishment for breaching it. This is because the Supreme Court ruled that enforcement for physical desecration of the flag would be unconstitutional as it would conflict with the right to free speech afforded by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. We also know that Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and was not fired.
What do we not know?
So far every NFL team has refused to sign Kaepernick, but we do not know if this is because of his protest, or because of his performances for the 49ers. Most NFL owners have not yet responded to Trump’s comments that protesting players should be fired.

Word Watch

Colin Kaepernick
Currently not signed to any team, he used to play quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He said that he knelt during the national anthem to “stand with the people who are oppressed”.
LeBron James
Currently plays for the New York Knicks. He has won the NBA most valuable player award four times, and has been selected to 13 NBA all-star teams.
Shahid Khan
American-Pakistani billionaire and business tycoon. His net worth is over $7 billion, and he is ranked as the 158th richest person in the world. He also owns the English Championship soccer club, Fulham.
Trump’s inauguration
Eight different NFL owners contributed over $7m to Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
Robert Kraft
American businessman and chairman of the Kraft group. His net worth is over $6 billion.
Demagoguery
Political activity or practices attempting to influence people by appealing to their emotions and prejudices, rather than by rational argument.

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