This week — the tangible struggle between The Gift of Trump and its inherent vices.
Last Sunday, many NFL players alongside some coaches, executives, and owners, protested during the national anthem by kneeling, sitting, locking arms, or staying in the locker room. Certainly, this created powerful imagery. It seemed to be a new level achieved in the protests started last year by Colin Kaepernick to bring attention to the oppression of people of color in the United States, particularly within the justice system.
The catalyst for the explosion of activism appeared to be Donald Trump’s comments earlier in the week — saying the protesters were “son[s] of a bitch” and should be “fired.”
The Gift of Trump is that his buffoonery and offensiveness draw unprecedented attention to issues and harms. The inherent vice is that said attention can be misdirected towards the villainous Trump, rather than towards systemic problems that exist regardless of President.
Think of Puerto Rico.
Earlier this week, Trump was critical of Puerto Rico and its government in, what else, a series of tweets. Sort of a sick example of kicking someone when they are down to criticize the relief efforts of a place just ravaged by a hurricane.
As per usual, Trump’s comments have created a tsunami of public outrage (too soon for that pun?). But it is one thing to criticize the way Trump treats Puerto Rico, and quite another to criticize the history and current relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Trump has produced the opportunity, provided we can ignore the clowns in the carnival.
For many, the problem is the same as faced by National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver earlier this week.
When asked if he expected NBA players to follow players in the NFL and kneel or otherwise protest during the anthem, Silver responded, “Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem. It’s been a rule as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.”
I’m not entirely sure he fully understands what a protest is — the reason they wouldn’t do it is that it is against the rules? Seems like a rule which removes political rights from the mostly African-American players at the behest of the “mostly” white owners is exactly the type of rule which should be the subject of protest.
More importantly though, remember two years ago when Adam Silver was being heralded as a hero to the African-American community for doling out a lifetime ban to openly racist LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Silver’s problem, the problem of many, is that it is much easier to oppose a flamboyant racist caricature than systemic problems.