Sunday Commentary: Trump’s War on Black Athletes

Michael Bennett with teammate Justin Britt/ photo courtesy of the Seattle Times

A year ago this would have been a column that would have been hard to fathom, but here we are.  Apparently draining the swamp also meant taking on professional athletes.

Of all the problems facing this nation, one has to rank the conduct of professional athletes near the very top (I say with tongue firmly implanted in my cheek).

The latest saga came on Friday night, when the president said that NFL owners should fire players for kneeling during the national anthem and encouraged fans to walk out in protest.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.  In a trend that began when former 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem last year, many other players have joined him in protest of treatment of minorities by the police.

The president complained that those players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” he said.

Mr. Trump then encouraged his supporters to leave next time a player fails to stand.  “I guarantee things will stop,” he said.

The comments naturally made national news and earned some harsh push back from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who said the president’s criticism of NFL players showed a “lack of respect” for the league and its players.

He said, “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.  There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” the commissioner added.

But wait, that’s not all.

The Golden State Warriors were not sure that they wanted to accept a Trump invitation to visit the White House in honor their championship a few months ago.

President Trump did not give them the chance to decide.

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump wrote.

Steph Curry had remarked during Media Day that he did not want to attend the White House ceremony scheduled to commemorate the title.

“‘By acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to,” Mr. Curry told reporters. ”It’s not just the act of not going. There are things you have to do on the back end to actually push that message into motion.”

The Golden State Warriors issued a statement later Saturday accepting Trump’s dis-invitation.

“While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited,” the team said.

The team added that, while the team will not be visiting the White House, its players will still come to the nation’s capital in February “to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”

NBA star LeBron James probably had the line of the day in response, “So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

Former Laker star Kobe Bryant also responded: “A #POTUS whose name alone creates division and anger. Whose words inspire dissension and hatred can’t possibly ‘Make America Great Again.’”

ESPN anchor Jemele Hill tweeted to Curry, “Hey @StephenCurry30, welcome to the club bro.”

President Trump had called on Ms. Hill to be fired after she tweeted her opinion about the president on Twitter last week.  Her most pointed comment was, “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”

A pointed op-ed appeared this weekend by professors Nicole Van Cleve (Temple University) and Rashawn Ray (University of Maryland) on the NBC News site, and several important points were made.

First, “What Trump and many NFL owners want fans to believe is that the players, many of whom are Black, are not impacted by the hostile political and racial climate of the United States.”

Second, “The broader narrative of the denial of players as people is a case study in the importance of stating, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and a reminder to the NFL that they have a responsibility to create a work environment that is hospitable rather than hostile to its employees.”

They point out that, after the shooting death of Philando Castile, they had a workshop where “Black athletes admitted to being traumatized by recent police shootings. Nearly all of them had a story about a near fatal police encounter where they were brutalized similar to (Michael) Bennett.”

One player told them “this happened while his mom was forced to watch helplessly from the car.”

“What if the NFL took the time to listen to its players without the threat of repercussion to their careers?” they ask.  “By allowing Kaepernick’s silent protest to have such dire professional consequences, the NFL is creating a toxic work environment for its employees.”

It might be ironic, but it is possible that the external and over-the-top comments from President Trump will finally push the NFL “to acknowledge that social injustices centered on racism and police brutality affect its employees regardless of how much money they make or how they perform on any given Sunday.”

If anything, President Trump’s comment illustrates that the divide in this country is expanding, not contracting.  And it even impacts professional athletes making millions.  Responsible leadership would act to bring us together, not further divide us.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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40 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Trump’s War on Black Athletes”

  1. Howard P

    This is just getting silly… ‘taking a knee’ is common… soccer kids are taught to, when there is an apparent injury to a player… Catholics ‘take a knee’ (called genuflecting, or kneeling) as a sign of respect…

    Just sitting on the bench is more disrespectful than ‘taking a knee’, as would be milling around aimlessly during the anthem…

    Apparently a lot of players who never ‘took a knee’ before, will be doing so today, in defiance of Trump’s childish reaction to ‘taking a knee’… pretty much all of both teams already have at the NFL game @ Wembley Stadium…

    Just silly…

  2. Don Shor

    “If anyone can hear us, help.” — Mayor Carmen Cruz, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    • Approximately 20 other mayors across the island still have not been able to make contact with government officials…

    • The mayors greeted each other with hugs and tears, and they pleaded with their governor for some of the things their communities need most: drinking water, prescription drugs, gasoline, oxygen tanks and satellite phones….

    Nobody can hear them, in this territory of the United States, because the president of the United States changed the national conversation and dominated the news cycle with a series of unscripted comments of abject retrograde racism.

    The president of the United States should be rallying Americans to donate and to help our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys. Instead he flies to stand in front of a white audience and deliver critical comments about black athletes.

    There is no excuse for this pathetic man.

    1. Howard P

      There is no excuse for this pathetic man.

      Actually, there may be a darn good excuse… for the great majority of us to unequivocally reject his world view (such as it is), and act in the ways you suggest his ‘leadership’ has failed in… perhaps we, as a country, can unite, realizing that we have a common enemy… not the man, but the shrek he seems determined to spout… and focus on what is truly needed… yeah, a paradox…

      Some would say you need the concept of evil (in english, ‘live’ spelled backwards), in order to be good.

      1. Howard P

        Nah… the appropriate punishment (yeah, torture has its place!) is to not allow him to tweet, no one speaks his name, no ‘power’, no ‘fame’… “shunning” is one of the most vicious punishments… and, appropriate… then, he could not be a ‘martyr’, and would be in his own hell…

        1. Tia Will

          I’m with Howard on this one. Complete disregard for the actions of 45 would be the most appropriate action. Interesting experiment to see how the most wealthy, powerful nation on earth would fare without a president, which is effectively what we have now anyway.

        2. Eric Gelber

          Complete disregard for the actions of 45 would be the most appropriate action. 

          Strongly disagree. First, the president of the U.S. can’t be ignored. His words have consequences. Second, it would leave the stage to Trump and his supporters/enablers. Trump must be actively resisted at every opportunity.

        3. Eric Gelber

          “Trump must be actively resisted at every opportunity.” Means to let him set the agenda. Ask around…

          I’m not suggesting mere obstructionism, as was the extent of the GOP’s game plan during the entirety of the Obama administration. Resisting Trump’s agenda–assuming he has a coherent agenda–must be combined with moving forward with a positive, progressive counter-agenda. I can understand why this concept is difficult for those on the right to comprehend, since governing is not their forte.

        4. Jim Hoch

          It’s difficult for the Democrats as they have staked all on “Not Trump” As far as the Democrats ability to govern it’s mostly theoretical as they have such little practical experience.

          1. Don Shor

            As far as the Democrats ability to govern it’s mostly theoretical as they have such little practical experience.

            Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama.
            You do the math.
            Also, I suggest you consider how the present occupant of the White House compares to any of those.

        5. Howard P

          Well Don, comparing the list, six still survive… Carter, the two Bushes, Clinton, Obama, and the current prez…. so out of 14, the prez passes that test… above the median…

          Years in office is a different matter… FDR a bit over 12; HST, just under 8; Eisenhower, 8; JFK, just less than 3; Johnson, ~ 5; Nixon, ~ 5.5; Ford ~ 2.5; Reagan, 8; Carter, 4; Bush I, 4; Bush II, 8; Clinton, 8; Obama, 8; Trump, TBD…

          Two democrats died in office, one by the hand of an assassin. One republican resigned after articles of impeachment were passed.  One democrat was impeached, but not convicted.  One republican, TBD.

          One democrat was assassinated, there were assassination attempts on one democrat (HST), and two republicans (Ford, twice, Reagan once).  One republican TBD.

          Hard to see a real pattern, on many levels… stuff happens, and new stuff is TBD.

          1. Don Shor

            The math is:
            Democratic presidents, 48 years.
            Republican presidents, 36 years.
            The question was with respect to practical experience with governance. I’d be happy to throw in Hoover, Coolidge, and Harding to even things out.

        6. Jim Hoch

          Don you may note that the people you list are either dead or no longer candidates for office.

          As of today, not 60 years ago but today, there are 34 Republicans, 15 Democrats, and 1 Independent governors. From Wikipedia “After this year’s election, Republicans control both chambers in 32 states—it’s actually 33 if you count Nebraska, which has a single legislative chamber and is technically non-partisan (but really isn’t)—while Democrats control both chambers in 13 states and one chamber in four other”. 

          So the current Democratic experience in governing is thin.


          1. Don Shor

            Hilary Clinton would have stepped into office with a functioning government. Trump still doesn’t have one. There are hordes of people ready to run the government under any Democrat that would have been elected or will be elected. There will certainly be no shortage of contenders in 2020.

        7. Jim Hoch

          “There will certainly be no shortage of contenders in 2020.” If there had not been an early coronation of HRC we may not have Trump now. However they put the fix in early so it was just HRC, MM, and the carpetbagger. A stronger group would have been a good for me as I may have done something other than vote for HRC with a deep sigh. And no I am not paying $250 for her. Now Bill is the best speaker I have ever heard in any venue.

  3. Eric Gelber

    Trump’s racism has been in evidence for decades. His disregard for freedom of speech and calls for forcible suppression of opposing views is the very definition of fascism. Never has there been a person so unworthy occupying the White House.

    1. Keith O

      disregard for freedom of speech and calls for forcible suppression of opposing views is the very definition of fascism

      Eric Gelber, are you referring to ANTIFA and college liberal activists?

  4. Tia Will

    The president of the United States should be rallying Americans to donate and to help our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys”

    Fortunately, Twitter, which has actively condemned 45’s lack of leadership in calling for aide to Puerto Rico, has filled the gap his disregard for human life has left and has posted multiple pleas for help.

    Again ironically, the American people seem willing to step in where needed even if 45 will not, apparently too busy with his ongoing reality show in which he gets not only to fire, but also to dictate to others who they should fire.

    1. Howard P

      BTW Tia, this is nothing new… time and time again, particularly in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian ocean earthquake/tsunami, the greatest relief (measured in dollars) came from the American public… via Red Cross, religious organizations, random individuals… outpacing any contributions from ANY government… even our own…

      See also,

  5. Tia Will


    Yeah,  I know, and I freely admit that I find it particularly irritating coming from 45 who I do not perceive as legitimate, effective, compassionate or even humane, all requisites for the presidency. I know and often ( as in daily) admit to this particular bias.

    1. John Hobbs

      “who I do not perceive as legitimate, effective, compassionate or even humane, ”

      Yet you [edited] are fine with making weak tea statements of protest instead of demanding justice. I shouldn’t be surprised at the town that advocates daycare for a mass murderer saying we should overlook treason in the office of the president.

      [moderator] stop insulting people.

        1. John Hobbs

          [moderator] edited

          And make no mistake, my odium toward those who sell liberty so cheap and those others who indulge their infamy is quite real. If you are not publicly damning Trump you are an enabler.

          [moderator] Once again: stop attacking people. Stop criticizing moderation practices on the Vanguard. If you do not follow the rules, I will not edit — I will simply remove your posts entirely.

      1. Tia Will


        making weak tea statements of protest instead of demanding justice”

        Your “weak tea statement” is my assessment of the current occupant of the WH and his admin.I am sharing my honest opinion. I don’t know what good you think my “demanding justice” would do besides bring smiles to the faces of those who know me well from years of posting.

        I communicate with all of our electeds from the CC to the BOS, to our state and national representatives. I am active on Twitter which I joined when I realized that was 45’s favorite daily form of communication. I have been at a number of rallies and marches locally.

        “Demanding justice” other than suggesting to the various electeds what I perceive that to be will help exactly how ?

  6. Howard P

    Perhaps the prez should have paraphrased JFK, in his inaugural address…

    “Ask not what I can do for the country, rather ask what the country can do for me!”

    It would have been an honest statement…

  7. David Greenwald

    But if the president thought he had leverage over those owners, he guessed wrong. Even Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots — who not only donated to Mr. Trump’s campaign but gave him a Super Bowl ring — issued a statement before Sunday’s kickoffs affirming players’ rights to “peacefully affect social change.” Another prominent Trump supporter, the former Jets coach Rex Ryan, said of Mr. Trump’s statements: “I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me and I’m sure it’s appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be.”

  8. Keith O

    The Golden State Warriors were not sure that they wanted to accept a Trump invitation to visit the White House in honor their championship a few months ago.
    President Trump did not give them the chance to decide.

    If you had been actually following this many Warriors have been very vocal about not visiting the White House since they won the championship many months ago.  Coach Kerr, Durant, Igtadoulla and now Curry have voiced their opinions.  Trump finally just said don’t worry about it, you’re not invited anyway.  Trump beat them to the punch.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      ” Trump beat them to the punch.”

      That’s exactly the problem. They were hesitant because of his conduct and then he acts childish and impulsively and has basically a three year old/ adult tantrum.

      1. Keith O

        No, they were berating Trump through the media at every opportunity and had no intentions of showing.  Trump finally said don’t worry about it, you’re not invited.

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