September 24, 2017 – Trump Bullies the NFL

Why President Trump’s statements on NFL player protests are not American enough…

In the last 24 hours. President Trump has criticized members and players of the National Football League who refuse to stand for the National Anthem all while dumping on NBA Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry as well as NBA star LeBron James.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these owners of the NFL Trump decried when somebody disrespects our flag to get that son of the bitch off the field right now? Tell him he’s fired.

These were our president’s exact words to considerable applause from an overwhelmingly white crowd. Total disrespect of our heritage, President Trump said, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for everything that we stand for. President Trump said. As though the individuals that choose to exercise their right to free speech and their ability to captivate an entire audience and encourage them to think about some harsh words that have been clouding the climate of racial equality in this country as though they themselves do not stand for the same heritage of our country.

President Trump we have an ability to stitch together the moral authority of this country to be the best type of American we can ever be one who stands for purpose one who welcomes those from all backgrounds and one who actually recognizes and honors the institution of the White House to be a force for good rather than a force for division. And when you have individuals who otherwise don’t fixate or focus on the policy or political rhetoric of our day but rather the grip of a football in their hands —  when you have those individuals that choose to speak out call attention to some issue and captivate their whole base of fan followers Instagram friends Facebook likes  — all of them to start thinking about challenging issues social issues that construct the American identity to call them out and say that they do not stand for the same heritage that you and I have been privileged to experience in our time as citizens of this country is not American enough and it does not value the institution of this White House.

Instead it starts to erode the moral authority in which we no longer welcome an individual to exercise his or her’s right. The First Amendment right to civic disobedience means that we do not welcome an institution in which anyone who pooh-poohs the standing of this president or wants to call on issues that are uncomfortable or maybe wants to call out a stance that maybe this administration disagrees with —  it means that we no longer welcome them inside the White House. But a reminder to every employee at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue —  that’s the people’s house. The ability to come there and go there yes is curated perhaps by your team and your staff and vetted and verified by the Secret Service to come in. But the ability to actually inform what that house look like looks like, what it means, what it stands for. That is an American effort  — not solely the right of the 4000 employees of your West Wing.

On Saturday morning President President Trump actually tweeted to NBA star Steph Curry saying that going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. And this was in regards to the NBA ballplayer saying that he was a little hesitant about wanting to go for a variety of reasons — most notably recent comments made almost condoning the actions of neo-Nazis that showed up in Charlottesville just a few weeks ago. But when President Trump continued to tweet about the matter he disinvited the player which then stoked some follow on response from NBA superstar LeBron James and he continued to say that everyone should stand for a national anthem and everyone should continue to, you know, make sure that they leave politics off the field. So these players only hit back and then he hit back. This back and forth repertoire is not uncommon under this administration.

And while I genuinely believe to all of our listeners here at American Enough that there are far more pressing matters in this country matters of health care urgent matters affecting the global stage in the way that we’re ratcheting up the rhetoric with North Korea —  matters of making sure that our working class and our middle class has access to their needs. All of these matters are very very very very important for our consideration and they extend far beyond the consideration of culture wars being stoked by an individual president.

But at the end of the day we have to be mindful of what’s happening here. We have a president that’s using the moral authority of his office  — of our office, the people’s office, the Oval Office — to start calling people in the NFL. A majority of whom are black Americans who captivate the imagination of not only aspiring kids who want to play on the field but also fans that are looking to unwind and cheer on a common theme and a common team calling them sons of bitches, telling owners to kick them off the field, simply because they are taking a stance . All while condemning them for not acknowledging the same heritage that we all know that we’ve shared together and we’ve been formed together  — that is a very dangerous thing. And while health care deserves our attention, the middle class, simplifying our tax code, making sure our teachers have the right resources in the classroom —  while all of those are really really critical matters.

This can’t be ignored because the very concept of a notion that in some way exercising your First Amendment right disrespects heritage foregoes the fact that even if we lived in a colorblind society this would be anything less than dangerous. Our brave soldiers, they don’t fight and die so everyone has to stand during the anthem. Frankly they were out there battling enemies that disagree with an open and free and transparent democracy so people can have the choice and the right to make a choice about how they want to express their sentiment. That is the most American way. That is the most American attitude one in which we are allowed to make clear that our sensibility our  patriotism, our ability to be uniquely American, is that we can speak out and draw attention to issues that may arise discomfort  — so we don’t live in a colorblind society.

Slavery sets in the founding roots of America and the goal of racial equality means a goal. It is not an achievement. It is a fluid point that continues to be a shifting target not just informed by this administration but rather the notion of our entire history and brick by brick. We try, as President Obama would often say, to make a more perfect union but that continues to bend over time  — and that does not just rest on the shoulders of Donald Trump or Barack Obama or any president we’ve had or any leader or Black Lives Matter or any neo-Nazi. That responsibility didn’t form that entire debate rests squarely with us. The people the Americans who are bold enough to take a stance and speak out and say a few things and say things that are on their mind.

Now of course there may be plenty of individuals out there who can rationalize the fact that keeping politics off of the field making sure that a pure sport. Making sure that our kids can show up and they can show up encouraged to play encouraged to work hard to learn lessons of teamwork. They don’t need to be sullied or dilute that experience doesn’t need to be diluted with political rhetoric. And you know what. That’s an understandable argument but at the end of the day the reason this matters is because the argument needs to be had.

But the argument is not coming with the right sense of moral authority from the one place who is who institutionally is best equipped to manage that argument. And that’s from the White House. This coded language in which we tell a majority of athletes who happen to be black that play in a certain league that they don’t share common heritage is awful. It is also a simplistic —  stunningly simplistic —  view of this community.

And in saying that you don’t belong or you shouldn’t be doing this or you should be fired or you’re not welcome in the White House. Well that is a perturbing notion that Americans have to act a certain way and that in order to be qualifiably encouraged to play on the football field or in order to be you know qualified enough to walk into the White House. You have to agree with one man and one man’s views alone no American enough as a podcast doesn’t want to pooh pooh the ability to have this discussion the discussion which is rooted in the sentiment of not only the first amendment but what are some tragic realities when it comes to underserved and minority communities and their access to health care or what are some tragic realities when it comes to this community and their ability to grow within the middle class.

These are real issues that demand real attention. But what that attention is is a very smart sober clear eyed leader coming to the table with disparate stakeholders having a conversation making sure that we’re working through these policy issues and not calling individual kids who were doing that, working their hardest every Sunday and every Monday and throughout the season, sons of bitches that is not an appropriate use of the bully pulpit Mr. President. And in fact when you say that these individuals are not American enough to be invited into the White House that it’s a sacred institution? I too worked in that same White House, Mr. President I’ve had colleagues and friends and family that I’ve worked in that White House, Mr. President. They were all American enough and they may not disagree. They may not agree with you day to day.

They may disagree with you day to day and they may even agree with you on certain occasions but this is the concept of our democracy and this is the concept of our core citizenship and identity. We have to be able to inform our collective outputs and outcomes look like not just you. That’s not what the White House is for and to erode that moral authority for the same kid that you want to see be inspired by the hard work and teamwork and determination of a football player and not his or her thoughts on American politics for the same kid that you want to look out for so they grow up with access to the most opportunities. It’s also not American enough for you to use that rhetoric for you to scold and chill First Amendment debates.

And for you to ignore the very very core of why these individuals are protesting in the first place because that doesn’t inspire that kid to think about the world in any different way than what and the way that you want him to think of it. The concept of racial identity extends far beyond just this president but this president has done very little to ease concerns about those racial views. And as protests in recent days have turned violent this president has claimed that there were many. There’s a lot of blame to go around. There is no doubt that for every argument there’s multiple sides of that same story and there is no doubt that culpability can be owned by multiple actors in any instance of protests or argumentation.

But to not vehemently pooh-pooh condemn not stand for and declare to the nation and the world that you will not tolerate anyone that stands up for racial injustice hate and bigotry only allows that same kid that you want to be inspired every Sunday when the NFL plays to also think that that hate and bigotry on the classroom or the playground or on the football field is OK. And when you start inspiring a nation of individuals who think it is fine for someone to say whatever comes to mind even when it’s hate even when there’s no strategy to the comments  — when that becomes OK then that shared heritage that you are so proudly trying to defend gets stripped away and every stripe on that flag that you’re trying to stand for starts chipping off.

We have to build a more perfect union and we do that, yes, by showing up to game day and putting our arms over one another’s shoulders and having a beer with someone regardless of their background creed or religion because we share in common enjoyment of a game. It also starts by making sure around that same shoulder we can have a frank discussion and a heart to heart conversation about what’s wrong with our backgrounds and our communities.

That is what the American ideal is. It’s not silence — it’s transparent ownership of the fact that there are real challenges ahead. And that’s what America has done so brilliantly. It would be a damn shame if we felt that we could all of a sudden disenfranchise an entire community of citizens who are being strong civic patriots by speaking out being mindful of an issue and encouraging others to do the same as being anything less than American.


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