protest

Fan with a sign that reads, "we hated Kaepernick before it was cool (fot football reasons, not because we're racists)"
Many fans who object to protests by NFL players during the US National Anthem insist their opposition has nothing to do with race (photo from Idaho Statesman)

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick continued a tradition in US sports by staging a protest against racial injustice during the playing of the US national anthem. Following his initial protest, Kaepernick said:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick’s comments were in reference to a series of deaths of unarmed Black American men, such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Reactions to Kaepernick’s protest were split. Within the NFL and beyond, many Black athletes, performers, fans, and even some coaches and officials joined in the protest against state violence in Black communities. At the same time, many others vociferously objected while claiming to not be racist. The image above illustrates the color-blind racism of the objectors; an anti-black statement of on-going hatred (“We hated Kaepernick before…”) is modified by a racially neutral phrase (“For football reasons”). The denial of racism when protesting an anti-racist protest obscures the ongoing operation of racism as a multifaceted construct that disproportionality targets Black Americans. Moreover, it prevents understanding of the US’s failure to provide equal protections for all citizens when state violence and poverty disproportionately affects Black communities.

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fits in protest of racial injustice at the 1968 Olympic Games. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This year marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century and the history of sport—the “Black Power” Salute by U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. With athlete activism and protests as relevant as ever, we wanted to capitalize on an opportunity to examine teammates’ reactions to Smith and Carlos’ silent protest. To do so, we collected and analyzed interviews with 59 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team. Our results, recently published in the Journal of Sport Management, highlight a range of perspectives and provide insight about the context and legacy of the demonstration.

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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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