POL­I­TICS TAKES FIELD

Amid Don­ald Trump’s Twit­ter frenzy over the NFL an­them protest, Aus­tralia faces its own sport­ing con­tro­versy at the NRL Grand Fi­nal to­mor­row, when a US rap­per will sing an anti-ho­mo­pho­bic song, writes Paul Toohey

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS -

WE’VE be­come a na­tion that dwells too much on triv­ial is­sues. Not stand­ing for the na­tional an­them – even though we’ve got a lousy one – is mer­ci­fully not yet one of them. But since the ar­rival of Don­ald Trump, and hav­ing got more than it bar­gained for, the US is turn­ing non­is­sues into ma­jor stoushes and po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties. Erad­i­cat­ing his­tory by haul­ing down Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues is a shame, and it’s one that Amer­i­cans will surely re­gret one day, if they don’t al­ready. Now, it’s play­ers kneel­ing for the na­tional an­them at Na­tional Foot­ball League games, be­cause of … what ex­actly? It be­gan last year, prior to Trump’s elec­tion, when black NFL quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick and team­mate Eric Reid didn’t stand for the an­them to high­light the killing of black cit­i­zens by po­lice. Their protest was lit­tle no­ticed, but Kaeper­nick did ex­plain at the time that he be­lieved po­lice were “get­ting away with mur­der”.

“I am not go­ing to stand up to show pride in a flag for a coun­try that op­presses black peo­ple and peo­ple of colour,” he said.

Kaeper­nick and Reid de­cided to take it fur­ther by lin­ing up for the an­them but bend­ing on a knee, heads bowed.

As Reid wrote in an opin­ion piece for The New York Times this week: “We chose to kneel be­cause it’s a re­spect­ful ges­ture. I re­mem­ber think­ing our pos­ture was like a flag flown at half mast to mark a tragedy.”

Then, in Au­gust, came the Char­lottesville ri­ots and Trump’s re­fusal to con­demn out­right the white su­prem­a­cists. A few more play­ers be­gan to kneel, or raise their fists, but it was hardly a move­ment. And it had lit­tle to do with anti-Trump sen­ti­ment – un­til last week, when the Pres­i­dent was cam­paign­ing for a con­ser­va­tive se­na­tor in Alabama and, apro­pos of noth­ing ex­cept try­ing to gen­er­ate him­self a pa­tri­otic rat­ings spike, he launched him­self at the neg­li­gi­ble band of kneel­ers, and, in do­ing so, el­e­vated their protest into an all-con­sum­ing na­tional de­bate.

“Wouldn’t you love to see

Footy fans shouldn’t be sub­jected to a politi­cised grand fi­nal. Sport is sport! TONY AB­BOTT

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