"Sport by its very nature is political- it unifies people behind a common objective, players and fans alike, people of all walks of life, all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, nationalities. Athletes have always used their platforms to raise awareness and to give a voice to those who aren’t heard, be it visiting hospitals to sit with sick children, raising awareness and funding for their care, or right here on the pages and in the activities of Show Racism the Red Card. I’m not sure how that can be interpreted as anything but political. The suggestion that “sport and politics should not mix” is deliberately misleading, echoed by those who either need something to hide behind when the politics doesn’t match their own, or those who view athletes as no more than mindless court jesters, complete with colourful belled-hats.
On this side of the pond no one needs me to remind them of the power of sport and the sportsman. From Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’s raised fist at the 1968 Olympics to Mohammed Ali’s stance against the Vietnam War. Positions that were even more vilified than that which we are seeing with the bended knee anthem protests of today.
As our politics becomes more partisan, ever more divided, it has become more important for us to listen to each other a little more carefully. Tough with the noise that comes with every single debate nowadays it seems, but in an effort to have informed opinions, it has become a must.
Lost in all of this is what the protests are about- equal rights for people of colour as described in the US Constitution. Which no one surely can have objection with. Equally lost is that in his effort to be empathetic in his protest, Colin Kaepernick consulted with a Navy Seal about how best he could get his message across without disrespecting the US Armed Forces. How many people who boo the NFL players on bended knee have asked a person of colour of their experiences in today’s America I wonder? I wonder if the sitting US President has bothered to do as much.
All the evidence suggests that despite the legislation of the past 75 years, despite the patience, African Americans and people of colour still do not share the same basic human rights as caucasians in the US. Martin Luther King, who is as celebrated today is he was vilified 50 years ago, wrote the blueprint for successful peaceful protest. I’ll invite everyone to read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, please. It is as pertinent today and these protests as it was at the time of writing in 1963. Martin Luther King, in the opening line, chastises his fellow clergymen who described his actions as “unwise and untimely”. Sound familiar? The words that follow are prophetic, though I’m not sure they were meant to be. Whether the US President chooses to recognize it or not, Colin Kaepernick and those who now join him have, and are prepared to sacrifice more than he ever will in recognizing the vision of a perfect union that the Founding Fathers imagined. The question for all of us now, regardless of whether you participate in the protests or not, whether you agree with the protests or not, is what now? Once the anthem has stopped, once you stand back up, once the cheering stops, what are we doing to make this a perfect union? Colin Kaepernick continues to lead in this regard as well. We can all follow his example, we all share that responsibility."