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
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