This past weekend was tense in the world of sports as both the NFL and NBA dealt with the fallout from comments by president Donald Trump against protests made by NFL athletes during the national anthem, as well as the Warriors not wanting to visit the White House. On Sunday, nearly every NFL team made some kind of protest or showing of unity during the national anthem in response to Trump’s call for owners to fire players that do so, and LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and others came to Steph Curry’s side in response to the president.
The protests have certainly created plenty of dialogue about what’s happening in America right now, although the reason for the protests has seemingly been lost on many, including Trump. Today Show host Megyn Kelly defended NFL players right to protest, citing players First Amendment rights, namely the right to petition as have many others. For some, it reminded them of the days of yesteryear when prominent black athletes were also upfront about social issues affecting their communities.
NBA Hall Of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was among those athletes that led the way in speaking out on social issues and being an athlete activist during his career and throughout his retirement. On Wednesday, the NBA legend spoke to NBC’s Meet The Press on the anthem protests happening over the weekend and said he was proud to see athletes using their platform to air their social grievances to the world, to make the masses aware of these issues.
Via Meet The Press.
Well, I think that today’s athlete has to speak out with regard to the things that they see occurring around them. There were a couple of football players for the Cleveland Browns that really reacted strongly to Tamir Rice’s execution. LeBron James has spoken out about different issues with regard to what’s happening with young black people being killed and various political issues. So, you know, it — you don’t have the convenience of being able to be an activist when things are easy. Things can be very tough. And you still have to make a choice as to whether or not you want to speak truth to power or be silent. And I’m really happy that these young men today, they see what’s going on and they are speaking the truth and bringing up these issues in a way that people can understand them and hopefully we can have the dialogue that we need to have in order to change things.
I — it — there’s such a variety of demonstrations out there. I think that in each case, there are legitimate issues and sometimes there aren’t. And it’s going to take a lot of discussion to sort out — sort all of this out. But the fact that these young men are demanding some type of accounting, I think, it’s remarkable and it’s being done in a non-violent, easy to understand way. And I think that that eventually will get through to the people that need to understand these things.
The Hall of Famer makes an interesting point — protests aren’t supposed to be easy. There are sacrifices that come from these protests, for example check the Twitter mentions of any athlete that protested. Twitter mentions of the athletes who protested have been a haven for Twitter bots to harass athletes or actual human beings who feel slighted by the protests.
But Abdul-Jabbar is right in that these protests are shedding light on the reasons why players are protesting, at least to an extent. Little over 365 days ago Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem for the first time, the rest of his NFL brethren joined him last weekend, although the original reason for protests (racial inequality and police brutality) have been coopted by some as simply being anti-Trump. Progress is a slow process, but if NFL players have proven anything, the protests work in the sense that they at least create a dialogue on the issues which can hopefully lead to change.