February 22, 2019

Trump, Colin Kaepernick and the Super Bowl

“Sports are not neutral. They are a political battlefield. This is especially true along the color line in America. These moments can consist of singular events: Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists in defiance against American injustice at the 1968 Olympics, Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali mastering the sweet science of boxing and delivering devastating blows against Jim and Jane Crow white supremacy and its assumptions about the mental, intellectual and physical inferiority of black people.

Black women are central to this story as well. Althea Gibson was the first black woman to break the color barrier in professional tennis. Decades later Venus and Serena Williams are trailblazing pioneers for their skill and dominance in women’s professional tennis.

More recently, of course, there is former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other black athletes (along with a few white ones) who have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest oppression and social injustice in post civil rights America.

There has been blowback, of course: Donald Trump won a presidential election (if only by a fluke) and remains remarkably popular among Republican and other white right-wing voters. At least in part, this reflects his strategy of condemning and threatening black athletes who dare to stand up for the value of black lives.”

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