Protests are public pleas protecting or creating common good. This common good varies among communities and individuals, which is why protests appear disturbing to some. Burning rigid representations onto things makes one ignorant of the multiplicity that all things convey. As people ignore the cries for help and demands for change, a malicious functional fixedness creeps to bog people down in decoy.
Kneeling during the national anthem sends a powerful message. Some people may read this as disrespect for a country they hold dear, but what does the one who kneels say? Kaepernick, the ex-NFL quarterback, initiated the movement by sitting out during the anthem play. When asked why, he said it was to not disrespect the country and those who protect it. He made it clear it was to oppose injustice consistently and disproportionately thrown at the Black population.
This happened around a year ago, during the last sparks of the Obama administration (seems a bit too long ago). The current president’s push against ‘disrespectful’ players reignited the strange debate around anthem etiquette. Sure, there are other ways to protest, but this was clearly effective, while delivering no harm.
Broken egos do not count.
There are many problems that have turned invisible through repetition. Actions need to break convention to draw focus on such problems. Sitting out or kneeling during the anthem break convention. The reason that these athletes break convention is they are trying to tell us something. Any grievance over conventional misconduct minimizes the pain propelling this message to be heard in this way.
Sports have never been apolitical. It has long been another permutation of warfare, even if the athletes didn’t know it. Athletes, however, reverse manipulation, by using their game to fight back. That’s what Kaepernick did by sitting out. That’s what athletes and staff did this weekend to protest the president’s lopsided judgements. The president, who may find antagonism disrespectful, promptly dis-invited The Golden State Warriors (a basketball team, in case you’re also not very sports savvy) after their point guard, Curry, voted against visiting the Oval Office.
As per tradition, championship-winning teams are invited to the White House. But as we have learnt, traditions should be broken when promises are. The promise of protecting and supporting all Americans was routinely broken with this presidency. Blacks and other people of colour are vilified and externalized in this administration. These teams decided to take a stand against racism in ways relevant to them. It’s not a mandated action, but nor should it be one dismissed for the affected.
That’s why it is ridiculous that a white hockey team accepts a visit to the White House.
Is it because the problems plaguing Black America are not their problems?
Most of the NHL roster is white, hinting at hockey’s already limited accessibility. It would have been nice if the Canadian-led superstar hockey team moved in solidarity with their fellow Black athletes. I admire propriety as much as the next Kid, but fuming over absent postures disregards the pain fueling those protests.
The Penguins’ maladroit RSVP reveals complacency, apathy or ignorance toward the administration’s actions.
To protest or to salute are rights marking the nation. It’s not unpatriotic nor is it disrespectful to pursue these rights to clear any wrongs. Both actions can here exist without persecution.
The actions these athletes take are not harmful, which is why we can accept them. I encourage Kaepernick’s stance because it stands for something real, while not hurting those he’s condemning.
The Penguins’ choice to visit the Office reeks of passivity in an inflamed politico-sport backdrop. This action is also not harmful, but not helpful either. Business as usual, it’s frustrating to see tact so trite.
Being a good sport has never looked so pitiful.