Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Tied to the Whipping Post": Trump and the NFL Plantation System


What defines the character of a person? Can an individual escape the consequences of his wrongful words and actions by merely making excuses or claiming his behavior is not intentionally hurtful? Of course not. Any person must own his own mistakes, learn from them, and modify his behavior to strengthen character.

President Donald Trump is unable to do this. He has a long history of harboring racist attitudes, and he shows no signs of changing. Oh, he has said, “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered,” and when asked about how he would persuade those who believe he is a racist otherwise, he ignored the question and said, “I’m not concerned. Actually, I’m not concerned because I don’t think people believe it.”

However, it is ludicrous to account for his racist words and deeds by saying, “Oh, that's how he is – impulsive and provocative. He doesn't really feel that way.” Trump is the man behind his divisive behavior. Even if he doesn't completely understand how he displays prejudice, he is clearly at fault. In truth, I believe the bias is much deeper than his atrocious inability to communicate.

Donald Trump has done many things that reveal his prejudiced character. For example …

* He attacked Muslim Gold Star parents of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan and seized on Ghazala Khan’s silence to insinuate that she was forbidden from speaking due to the couple’s Islamic faith.

* He claimed a judge in his class action against the for-profit Trump University.was biased because “he's a Mexican.”

* The Justice Department sued his company, the Trump Management Corporation twice for not renting to black people in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

*Workers at Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, have accused him of racism over the years. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission fined the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino $200,000 because managers would remove African-American card dealers at the request of a certain big-spending gambler. A state appeals court upheld the fine.

* He refused to condemn the white supremacists such as former KKK leader David Duke, who were campaigning for him.

* He questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States.

* He treats racial groups as monoliths – calling them “the blacks, the Muslims, etc – while claiming he “loves” the group in question and ignoring that people are individual human beings.

* He encouraged the mob justice that resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of the Central Park Five by taking out full-page ads in four New York City-area newspapers. 
* He condoned the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally in Alabama.

* He stood by his “blame on both sides” at Charlottesville comment even after Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., discussed with him how to improve race relations and policy issues of specific concern to communities of color. Plus, he came down squarely on the side of keeping Confederate monuments saying : “They’re trying to take away our culture.”

* He pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who implemented discriminatory policies, flouted the law, and violated the civil rights of the people he was elected to serve.

* During what was supposed to be a stump speech for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), he drifted away from campaigning to ask members of the crowd if they'd love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired’?” He also encouraged fans to boycott the league over the protests.

* He often treats African-American supporters as tokens to dispel the idea he is racist.

So, is it any wonder Trump keeps inserting himself into a debate over National Anthem protests? By making the issue about himself and not about blacks, not only does he wish to force his views about managerial power and patriotism, but also he willingly asserts his racist character. He doesn't care that the protest started by Colin Kaepernick is meant to open a national conversation about race and justice while fighting oppression through education and social activism. Trump's vision of “making America great again” is a return to a time when nonwhites were second-class citizens.

Although Trump claims his actions “have nothing to do with race,” he continues to ignore the real issues of the protest, and he has taken it upon himself as president (from a bully pulpit) to condemn those who use their right to protest in order to draw national attention to a very pressing issue.

Donald Trump knows the racial composition of the league – blacks represent 70 Percent of NFL players while the fan base is 83 percent white. The NFL has no African-Americans majority owners of a team and no African-American CEOs or presidents. In fact, Reggie Fowler, who owns 40% of the Minnesota Vikings is the sole black major ownership member.

In addition, Trump knows that “since at least 2014, owners who donated to him have consistently had fewer African-American execs, general managers and vice presidents than teams whose owners did not donate.” In fact, owners who did not give to Trump were found to be roughly 2.5 times as likely to have black general managers or vice presidents than Trump-donating owners over the past three football seasons.”

Believing that ownership would reciprocate and overwhelmingly support him, Trump exploited this inequality and essentially declared, “It's time for the masters to force a stop to all these problems on the NFL plantations.” By saying any player who didn’t stand for the anthem was a “son of a bitch” and should be fired by his team’s owner, he played to his base while using the excuse of patriotism to urge political obedience.

Face the facts – this is a time of a near unparalleled rise of racial tension. Now, the United States is experiencing the most profound demographic change since the turn of the 20th century, with minorities already comprising a majority of all students in the K-12 public school system nationwide. Demographers such as the Pew Research Center project that as soon as 2020 kids of color will comprise a majority of all Americans under 18. White Christians, who represented a majority of Americans for most of our history, fell below 50% of the population sometime around Barack Obama's reelection in 2012. And, the share of the US population that is foreign-born is on track to reach its highest level ever by around 2025.

Still, under pressure from Trump and despite promises by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the protesters would face no reprisals, NFL team owners will consider requiring football players to stand for the U.S. national anthem. Trump has even suggested using tax laws to penalize the league for players who kneel in protest of racial injustice. This from a man who has refused to disclose his own tax history.

The population is changing. Not that this would matter to Trump. The nation must practice less resistance to changing viewpoints and identities to avoid unnecessary division; however, pressure from the top down prevents a clear perspective from emerging. The ownership of NFL isn't afraid of Trump, per se. It is more that they resemble him much too much.

Author and The Nation’s sports editor, Dave Zirin, explains ...

“It’s not fear of Trump. It’s that they are Trump. Billionaires are not allies in the fight against the white-supremacist, anti-labor aims of this administration. They are the beneficiaries. This has gotten twisted in recent months, as people have been grateful for the diverse, proudly political voices that ESPN has hired in recent years, as well as the sight of NFL owners backing their players after Trump’s abhorrent Huntsville, Alabama, speech, where he called NFL protesters 'sons of bitches.'”

Trump is as Trump does. This can also be said of those who support his reckless ways. Trump is an accelerant for white supremacists and other less outspoken racists. As LeBron James said, “He's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.” How can you not see his intent as he condemns the NFL while while, at the same time, saying he is “so proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans” for not tolerating “disrespecting our country or our flag.”

This president wants people to take sides, and, believe me, his “side” has nothing to do with equality. He may say the country needs solidarity; however, he defines any unanimity as a strict adherence to what he deems important to him and to his divisive supporters. He quickly attempts to demean opposition by encouraging an “us versus them” mentality. The single polarizing agent time and again is race.
Joe Feagin, a Texas A&M professor who has studied race relations for decades says …

“The closest comparison to Trump in recent decades may be the former Democratic governor of Alabama, George Wallace. In his presidential campaigns, Wallace was stylistically similar to Trump in his aggression on the stump; he blamed “anarchists” for disrupting his events and the country at large, much as Trump has often impugned today’s protesters. As a renowned segregationist, Wallace didn’t have to talk openly about race; instead he talked about blocking fair housing laws initiated to protect minorities...

“It’s hard to find somebody as bold and blunt as Trump is without going back to George Wallace. It’s more of a megaphone than a dog whistle...

“At the center of this seems to be a strong resistance to racial change and reform and racial justice. The bodies of black and brown people seem often to trigger a strong response in him.”

(Cathleen Decker. “At Trump's bully pulpit, it's 'us' vs. 'them,' with race often used as a device to polarize.” Los Angeles Times. September 23, 2017.)

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