protest

Michael Forbes was among those who resisted the construction of Trump International Golf Links Scotland (photo from Getty Images)

There is a thesis that Donald Trump’s presidency has a silver lining in inadvertently laying bare the source and extent of many contemporary problems.

This can be named the Wake-Up Call Thesis. It was expressed, for example, by Baltimore Sun columnist Tricia Bishop: “This social media president has brought our faults to the surface for all to see. So now, instead of expending energy to hide them, perhaps we can start addressing them.”

Whether this thesis bears out – that is, whether the harsh realities of a Trump presidency will alert us to long-standing problems that have been largely ignored or dismissed – remains to be seen. Moreover, Trump opponents might well argue that any silver linings are still features of the storm cloud of his presidency. But, if the first step in solving a problem is admitting its existence, the Wake-Up Call Thesis is intriguing.

As researchers studying sport and the environment – and as researchers who have had our own “encounter” with Trump – the Wake-Up Call Thesis piqued our attention. Is there a silver lining in Trump’s fraught relationship with sport, and with golf in particular?

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Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

As the furor over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem rekindles, the full power of the players themselves has not yet come into play. Presidential politics and U.S. culture wars combined to make the issue a dominant subplot of the 2017 NFL season. In late May, the league’s team owners reopened the debate by deciding to create a policy requiring players on the field during the playing of the national anthem to stand, under penalty of fines and on-field penalties, though players can also stay in the locker room.

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Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams in need of a quarterback.
Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams looking to sign a quarterback. (Photo by Gerry Melendez/ESPN)

With NFL training camps well underway, teams looking to sign a quarterback have passed over Colin Kaepernick time and time again. It appears he may be serving his ultimate punishment following a year of protest and activism. Amid those who defend NFL decision-makers as simply making choices for “football reasons,” there has also been a chorus of critics who see (black) players as responsible for his remaining on the sidelines.

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University of Minnesota football players stand behind senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky as he reads a statement about the team’s boycott to media members. (Photo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Sexual violence in college sport represents an important problem that coaches and administrators must address. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the government has conducted 365 investigations of colleges for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence since 2011. A simple search in the Chronicle’s Title IX database using the terms “football” and “sexual assault” yields around 250 matches for currently open investigations and 49 matches for cases that have been resolved. Further, roughly half of the student athletes surveyed in a recent study admitted to committing coercive sexual behaviors. Scholars have been investigating the relationship between college football and sexual violence for a long time, and the problem has not gone unnoticed by journalists, critics, and higher education administrators.

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