Chief Sports Editor
It’s easy to forget that sports are sports. It can be difficult to separate an athlete from their on-field persona; that is, what they do during a game. As a Yankees fan, I didn’t like Big Papi—my main reason stemmed from the simple fact that he was good at baseball—and this negatively affected the team I support. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Papi as a player, that didn’t mean I disliked him as a person—because the only reason I abhorred him in any aspect of life was because he wore a Red Sox jersey from the months of April to (usually) September. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to disassociate a player’s persona from their athletics. Players like Ray Rice and Greg Hardy—objectively good football players who did objectively terrible things—deserve to have this dilemma thrust upon them. But a player like Colin Kaepernick—an objectively decent football player doing a legal (to say the least) thing—does not deserve this treatment.
If you didn’t know, Colin Kaepernick is the former starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He was a very good football player for a few seasons, then he had some not-so-great (but still decent) seasons, and then he started kneeling during the National Anthem at the start of the 2016 season. At the end of that season, he opted out of his contract and has been out of a job ever since. Kaepernick is definitely not the best quarterback in the league and may not even be good enough to start anymore, but he is, without question, talented enough to be on a roster. Don’t tell me that 37-year-old Josh McCown, who I’m pretty sure has never thrown a touchdown in his life, is better than a 29-year-old Kaepernick. Only four years ago, Kap led the Niners to the Super Bowl and was one of the most promising players in the league. Don’t tell me that only four years later he doesn’t even belong in the NFL.
This isn’t going to be a rambling thinkpiece on Kaepernick. I’m not here to shame you for not supporting what he’s doing, nor am I here to glorify him. My reason for writing this article is that on September 22, Donald Trump gave a speech in Alabama. During this speech, he began to talk about NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem, saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” A day later, he then tweeted, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” This tweet is equivalent to me saying, “Letting me write for your newspaper is considered a great honor for a publication. The New York Times is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Curry, who recently won the NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors, had said a day earlier that he would not attend the White House if his team was invited. He was not “hesitating.” He was never planning on going.
The point of this article isn’t to spray polarizing opinions at you about Trump. Do I like him? No. Do I think he should threaten nuclear war via Twitter? No. But what I think of him doesn’t matter. What does matter, though, is what Trump thinks about free speech and what he thinks is dangerous. To call someone a “son of a bitch” for exercising a Constitutional right is, also, someone exercising their Constitutional right. Trump, however, is the president. The President of the United States should support American people who do things that the Constitution says they can do, which is a sentence that sounds stupid to be seriously writing in 2017. It’s not a debate: Players, and any other American citizens, are allowed to protest. The President’s speech (and subsequent tweets) only divide the country further apart.
This past weekend, NBA stars such as LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Kobe Bryant all spoke out against Trump’s unpatriotic rhetoric. On Football Sunday, the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team (save one player) didn’t even come out of the locker room for the National Anthem. Numerous NBA and NFL team owners have released official statements expressing support for their players and condemning Trump’s words, even some who supported him during the election. These protests are not going to stop, and if last weekend is any reflection, they’re only going to continue to grow.
If Trump thinks yelling “He’s fired!” at a bunch of revved-up Alabama Republicans is going to stop players from doing what they think is right, then he’s (unsurprisingly) wrong. These protests are not anti-American. They’re about people acting out against someone’s line of thinking that doesn’t reflect the very thing that makes America America: the Constitution. If the President can’t support that, then it’s up to us to support each other.