President Donald Trump likes to use the bully pulpit to set black athletes and sports figures in their home. He seems most in his element when he’s right on the cusp of calling a young black boy “uppity, ” especially when that young black man is a football player who has the temerity not to stand for “the member states national” anthem. Race-baiting black players is a residence game for our president.
The problem Trump and his supporters had with the complains during “The Star-Spangled Banner” was never that people were politicizing the anthem; it was that the incorrect people were politicizing the anthem. If it wasn’t obvious at the time, it should’ve been obvious Monday evening, when Trump depicted up on the field at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium ahead of college football’s national championship play and used the national anthem as an occasion to stage a political stunt. The stunt was that he stood, which is all he had to do to work the rancours of his base:
Trump’s attendance placed him squarely in a long tradition of presidents applying sporting occurrences for political ends. But that he preferred this specific play, between the University of Alabama and University of Georgia, reveals something about Trump’s opted terrain for waging his culture conflicts. College football country is Trump country, and the fact that there is Southeastern Conference crews from Alabama and Georgia — states that both ran resoundingly for him — induced it a safe bet he’d appearance little taunting from fans. It was in Alabama last year where Trump told rallygoers that NFL owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who complains during the anthem. You don’t have to travel a great clairvoyant interval to get from “S-E-C! S-E-C !” to “Make America Great Again! ”
Inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Trump had procured his safest possible room — an event at which he knew that he, and only he, would have the platform to use the national anthem as a political prop.
Much as in the NFL and NBA, the two biggest strongholds of Trump opposition in sports, black jocks make up a sizable majority of the players in major college football. And just as in those tournaments, they operate in a labor structure that overwhelmingly welfares white tutors, administrators and executives.
But unlike their pro counterparts, college jocks play for a pittance, and their structure offers them none of the organizing power or rights that commit professional contestants at least a little handle — or legal recourse — to objection the political and racial status quo.
Trump and his supporters invested an entire NFL season insisting that contestants should refrain from politics and “stick to sports.” This was always a lie: Opposition to the demonstrations has, this whole occasion, been about white people’s suffering with black voices communicating up about systemic combating racism and police barbarism. These are issues that large swaths of lily-white America have no interest in hearing about, much less actually addressing.
College football’s national championship game was the best venue for a counterprotest. It was a stage from which Trump could send the content he wanted to send, while the dimensions of the the event, and the racial and labor dynamics underlying the sport, guarantees that the most likely voices of opponent would have no choice but to stick to sports, indeed. Before the game, a camera caught Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough hollering “Fuck Trump! ” A voice of resistance, sure, but notice where he said it: in the bowels of the stadium, disguised from the crowd, hidden from a president who was conducting politics at the 50 -yard line.