Take the knee (to the political groin)


Everyone who know me knows I don’t play sport, I don’t watch sport, I don’t write about sport, and I don’t care about sport. God bless you if you do any or any combination of the above; more power to you. As for me, I’ll spend my time doing something else -like make an exception about writing about sport when something monumentally silly happens in sport that intrudes into my non-sport reality.

Like “taking the knee”.

The controversy, of course, is not new; it started over a year ago with Colin Kaeprnick sitting out the anthem, because “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” As I wrote then,

Kaepernick lives in a country that oppresses black people so much that a teenage mother, whose black father did I runner when she was still pregnant, can give out her baby for adoption, and a (clearly racist) white couple can bring him up, give him love, support and education that allowed him to become a star athlete, whose latest 6-year contract is worth $126 million. Maybe I’m being unkind to Kaepernick but does he actually in any tangible way help the oppressed, or is sitting down the extent of his struggle?

In a way, Kapernick reversed my countryman Kopernik’s (Copernicus’) revolution – from heliocentrism we’re now back to “the whole universe revolves around me”. OK, maybe I was a bit unkind, but you get the point.

From what I can gather of the “take the knee” controversy unfolding at the moment, the mostly African-American football players are choosing to kneel or at least link arms – as opposed to standing on attention – during the American anthem to protest police brutality and inequality. And also because President Trump said some mean things about them.

Here are a few thoughts:

1.You have the right to express your view. Other people have the right to think you’re an idiot and your view is bullshit. As everywhere else in life, you have the right to your opinion; you don’t have the right to everyone’s respect for or agreement with your opinion. This applies to both the players and to President Trump’s reaction.

2. The point 1 above is not strictly speaking correct: it is the government that shall not restrict the freedom of speech. Your employers can do it routinely as part of your contractual relationship. Club owners and the League management could easily tell the players to stand or else. In the past, they have threatened to fine players who wore footwear celebrating the memory of September 11 victims. Today they stand with their players who refuse to stand. I guess we all know now where they stand indeed. You’ve chosen to politicise sport – and in one particular direction – you take the consequences.

3. Some might say – and do

That’s fine, but presumably you’re focussing on the anthem because you’re considering it a racist national symbol of a racist country. Otherwise what is the connection between “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the police brutality? Shouldn’t you perhaps be protesting the cops, like the ones who are providing the security for your match? Like kneel in front of them, or away from them, or turn their backs on them, or something?

4.There seems to be a lot of people who really don’t like their country, but certainly like making millions of dollars in it and of it. If you are really so deeply unhappy, why continue to subject yourself and your family to such life if there are so many other options?

5.If you are protesting inequality as a multi-millionaire athlete and a sporting celebrity, I would have more respect of you if you took a knee while being presented with your next pay-cheque. Kneeling during the anthem is a cheap gesture; it doesn’t actually cost you anything. On the other hand, it probably costs you a part of the audience, which means less advertising revenue, which means a smaller pay-cheque in the future. We’ll see.

6.If kneeling and/or introducing your non-sport-related beliefs to the playing field is so cool, then why was Tebow the subject of such a huge controversy and ridicule? Some consistency perhaps, people.

Racism, violence and inequality are all real problems in the world, including in the United States, and complex one to that. I doubt whether the best ways to tackle and improve the conditions of the African-American population (in itself a complex community facing complex problems, not all of which – I know you will be shocked – have to do with white racism) is to engage in political stunts that achieve little but antagonise the majority of your fellow countrymen and women. That’s pretty much how you get Trump elected and re-elected.