NBA, NFL players fire back at Trump
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2017 - 4:00pm

What do you do when the President of the United States hurls racial insults at you for expressing your opinion in a silent, peaceful way consistent with your beliefs, and wants to have you fired?

Back in August, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat throughout the American national anthem before a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers, a quiet protest over issues of racial inequality. Since then, he has promised to sit or kneel through “The Star Spangled Banner” until he sees change. It was only after he did it a third time on Aug. 26. Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation tweeted a photo, and media picked up the story. Over the past weeks, the gesture has caught on with other athletes, cheerleaders, high school footballers, and even a group of eight-year old football players in Illinois. By Sept. 11, players of at least five other NFL teams have emulated Kaepernick, many of them African-American. Players from the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have likewise raised their fists during the national anthem.

“No one’s tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about,” the free agent said back then. “I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for look. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have the voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful. To provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.”

Well now, someone has, and it’s Donald Trump.

Stumping for Alabama senatorial candidate Luther Strange in Huntsville Friday night US time, Trump veered way off topic and called the kneeling black players a foul name we will not repeat here, and said out loud that he wants them fired. POTUS claimed their actions disrespect the national anthem. The reaction to fellow Americans quietly protesting while he is mum on police brutality against fellow citizens who just happen to have different skin is disturbing, at the very least. The language used, however, is unacceptable. Needless to say, the reaction of NFL players and even the NFL Players Association was fast, and furious.

“We will not back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports,” said DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA on Twitter.

There is actually a law in the US pertaining to behavior during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”, whether or not the American flag is present. Title 36, Section 301 of the US Code, or Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies and Organizations, which came into effect January 3, 2012 directs military personnel to render a salute. It also says:

“(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;”

The law is rarely – if ever – enforced.

Earlier, Trump also withdrew the White House invitation to Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who expressed hesitation at attending the traditional courtesy call by NBA champion teams. This brought down a storm of harsh reactions from LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, and dozens of international sports and non-sports media.

In the Philippines 17 years ago, the Bureau of Immigration issued a deportation order against Cebu Gems forward Matt Mitchell for allegedly singing and dancing during the playing of “Lupang Hinirang” before a flight at the Mactan Cebu International Airport. Ten years ago this month, singer Christian Bautista omitted a couple of lines of the last stanza of the national anthem at a Gerry Pe?alosa exhibition bout in Alabang, and apologized for the faux pas. There has obviously been no lasting adverse impact on either of them.

The past week, Filipinos were given the freedom to protest the distant past, the recent past and even the current political and sports situations in the country. The protests were loud, some even vulgar and slanderous. Yet, we go about our way, each choosing his own method of clamoring for fairness and equality. Perhaps, in that respect, the Philippines is a little more of a democracy right now.

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