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Abdul-Jabbar writes: "I have never been prouder to be a part of the athletic community than I was this weekend as players and owners in football, basketball and baseball displayed public unity in their resistance to the racist, anti-veteran and anti-American statements by President Donald Trump."

Patriot football team kneel during the US national Anthem. (photo: Getty)
Patriot football team kneel during the US national Anthem. (photo: Getty)

Athletes and Entertainers "May Be Our Best Hope"

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, The Hollywood Reporter

28 September 17

"I have never been prouder to be a part of the athletic community," writes the NBA great and THR contributor as even Trump supporter Tom Brady resists the president's attacks on pros who #TakeaKnee.

have never been prouder to be a part of the athletic community than I was this weekend as players and owners in football, basketball and baseball displayed public unity in their resistance to the racist, anti-veteran and anti-American statements by President Donald Trump. Talk show hosts and other celebrity entertainers from Stevie Wonder to Eddie Vedder to Samuel L. Jackson voiced their heartfelt support. This marks a decided shift in the sports and entertainment industries’ role in political resistance to the Trump administration’s assault on American values and constitutional civil liberties. They have evolved from quiet protest and heckling sarcasm, to respected leaders informing the public about what’s at stake. And in doing so, perhaps change the downward social spiral we are in.

What makes this uprising of moral indignation and political zeal in the entertainment industry (and I include sports as entertainment) so significant is that these people speaking out do so with the full realization that they have something personal to lose. The players risk their entire futures, including jobs as well as endorsement deals. The NFL, MLB and NBA had previously taken a dip in attendance and in TV ratings, so the possibility of alienating potential viewers and park attendees is a bold move. Clearly, they are all motivated by something more important than profits: patriotism. The prospect of having the president dictate team policy while shredding the First Amendment was too much for many.

Yes, talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert have been mocking Trump with increasing frequency over the past year. But they were generally preaching to the choir of those already opposing him. To those still assessing Trump’s performance as president, their tone could have seemed more bitter than incisive. Perhaps these comedians held on to a slim hope that poking fun at him might wake Trump to his responsibilities to all Americans, not just his loyal few. However, that has proven not to work. His loyalty is only to his base of wealthy white donors hoping to cash in on huge profits from his deregulations, ignorant white supremacists who herald a return to free-range racism and born followers who will support him despite all the evidence that they are the ones most hurt by his policies. That’s about 30 percent of the population and nothing will budge them from attaching themselves to his behind like barnacles on a ship.

The target demographic up for grabs, the ones open to late-date logic, are those who want to have faith in the president but are disturbed by his erratic and dangerous behavior. They are torn between holding the course while holding their noses and hoping for the best, or admitting that they made a huge mistake. That’s who entertainers and athletes hope to influence. When a staunch Trump supporter like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says, “I certainly disagree with what [Trump] said. I thought it was just divisive,” and locks arms with his teammates during the national anthem to show support for their protest, that has impact on this group.

In an effort to also influence this target audience, the talk show hosts’ routines have taken a darker, more urgent turn. With North Korean nuclear threats, the president endorsing racists at Charlottesville [Va.], a mystery plan in Afghanistan, the hobbling of the EPA and other consumer protections, attempts to ram through faulty health-care bills and more, we aren’t laughing anymore. The mood of the country is fearful and anxious, like passengers aboard the Titanic wondering if that iceberg isn’t a little too close despite the captain saying not to worry, he’s the greatest captain the world has ever seen. We can’t hide from these harsh realities by escaping in talk show antics or the diversion of sports when — to their credit — athletes and entertainers are reminding us of the seriousness of our national crisis. Because they have so much to lose by expressing their politics, they have become trusted voices in delivering the news and may be our best hope in turning the country around.

Trump loyalists — the unscrapable 30 percent — have spouted the usual irrational statements. They will mention how it’s disrespectful to the country to protest the flag or the national anthem, citing the soldiers who fought and died for our freedoms. They didn’t fight for those things, they fought for what they represent: our right to exercise our freedom of speech. Yet, the president insults that sacrifice by trying to curb that freedom. Trump calling for punishment for exercising these rights is the same rationalization used in union busting and breaking up civil rights marches. The oppressed should be grateful for whatever scraps they get. The subtext here is that black athletes and entertainers have been invited to the Big House to sit at the table with the bosses. As long as we keep shuffling and entertaining, express our gratitude and keep our mouths shut like small children, then we can stay. But if we mention the conditions of those people outside, we are threatened with expulsion from the white Garden of Eden.

Star Trek: The Next Generation’s most frightening villain was the Borg, a hive-mind collective that assimilated every life form they came across. Sound familiar? The Borg used to tell their enemies, “Resistance is futile.” Maybe so. But lately, when I look around at those brave, outspoken athletes and entertainers leading the resistance, I think maybe not. your social media marketing partner


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+12 # chapdrum 2017-09-28 17:24
May be our only hope.
0 # SHK 2017-09-28 23:21
Indeed. I hope though we citizens will understand what we are facing and will by regular resistance to all pushes to the contrary keep the ship of state on course. I don't think that all Republicans are on board with Trump in terms of his agenda—if they realize what it might truly be. I think they are going to get what they want if they can but I HOPE that the entity we call The United States of America will survive as UNITED. I fear that that may not happen and I don't know what that means.
+6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-09-28 19:45
Yes, this was a very great moment for professional athletes and for the nation. Professional athletes are a very powerful force in the US. They make media like TV profitable. They generate millions of dollars for cities which have teams. They are an essential part of the American economy and society.

They stood in unison last weekend behind the call that racism in the US, especially in police departments, needs to be addressed right now. The National Anthem is a racist song, written by a proponent of slavery, and it refers to the murder of slaves. Its sentiments are those of the slave protrols, the precursors of today's police departments.

And yet who is against this unified stand. It is the mass media and Trump. Now they are on the same side. They are trying to make us believe that this protest is a disrespect of the flag, the nation, the military, or something. The opponents to the position taken by Kareem above include Trump. the Russiagate investigators, the mass media, the FBI, big business which are beginning to pull ads during NFL games, and other strange bedfellows. It is just strange to see that usual opponents standing together to oppose African Americans demanding justice for police murders. The next thing we are likely to see is Hillary calling to bring these athletes to heel.

This is a really revealing moment in the US.
-14 # egbegb 2017-09-28 22:36
If athletes and entertainers are our best hope, we are dead. Almost none of them has any understanding of history, ethics, philosophy, right, wrong, or how to justly participate in society. Athletes, today, are victims of a monstrously poor public education. Which athlete today has any clue as to how to solve problems America faces? Not one of them has suggested a single thing about how to change policing policy to reduce the 'police brutality' myth spewed by the liberal press.

Sadly, athletes and entertainers cannot even engage in polite, respectful, and thoughtful discussion. If I am wrong, please point me to such a two-way discussion. Been searching for that for years.
+7 # Texas Aggie 2017-09-29 09:43
Not sure why you are so down on athletes, but how is your description of them any different from nonathletes?

How many nonentertainers have any better understanding of history, ethics, philosophy, right, wrong or how to justly participate in society? Which nonentertainer has any clue about as to how to solve problems America faces? And there have been a LOT of suggestions from athletes of how to change police brutality which no one who understands evidence claims is a "myth."
+5 # elizabethblock 2017-09-29 08:49
The athletes taking the knee may be our salvation in another way. Better have Trump threatening to fire them all, which he can't do, than threatening to destroy North Korea with nuclear weapons, which he can do.

As for athletes and entertainers not being able to engage in polite, respectful, and thoughtful discussion, did you actually read Karim Abdul-Jabbar's piece? And listen to Roger Waters on Democracy Now.
+4 # Texas Aggie 2017-09-29 09:36
The drumpfbots want to make this into disrespect of our military, but the person who is actually in fact disrespecting our military is the person who wants to take away their health care, take away their housing, take away their social support, take away just about everything they have. You can recognize him by the dead Pomeranian glued to his skull.
+5 # revhen 2017-09-29 12:15
Too many people, from the top down, misunderstand the purpose of demonstrations by some athletes regarding our national anthem and flag. They are not against either but against the flagrant violations of the ideals and principles expressed by both. The anthem ends with the words “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Is someone who shoots an unarmed man exhibiting bravery? Is the dead person enjoying freedom, the freedoms spelled out in our Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” The Pledge to the Flag ends “with liberty and justice for all.” The demonstrators perceive that this is just not true for far too many. When tweets and speeches against these demonstrators issue from the bully pulpit of the White House, is that promoting an “indivisible” nation? I tremble when I think that we are one of the nations “under God” (ALL nations are under God!), under God’s mercy – AND judgment. The attacks strike me as just another diversion from the hard work of government, particularly tax reform, which in its present form immensely cuts taxes on the wealthy and corporations and, despite verbiage from the bully pulpit, may actually increase taxes on the middle class.

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