Protest On Your Own Time

I saw an article on the Bing homepage about a player on the Washington Capitals speaking out and calling President Trump a racist.  It got me to thinking about the nature of protests by well-paid professional athletes, and what they put at risk in today’s culture by bravely standing up to protest issues on the field.

This sort of thing has been going on for years, of course. Particularly and lately in the NFL.

President Trump has made quite a lot of political hay on the issue.  I think he tapped a populist vein prior to the election that helped him win, but I also think he has continued to flog the issue long past its usefulness. On the other hand, for various reasons – chief among them TV ratings and the money that comes with them – the issue refuses to go away.

The NFL recently implemented a rule requiring players on the field to stand for the national anthem. Any players who do not wish to stand for the anthem can stay in the locker room without penalty or risk.

The one thing I’m sure of is that the beginning of the football season will NOT go smoothly.

This morning on the way to work, I remembered a movie from the 80s that seems relevant to the macro issue of professional athletes and protest.

The movie was called Amazing Grace and Chuck, and it came out in 1987.

I fear I may give away a lot of the plot here, so be warned; conversely, the movie is over thirty years old, so the statute of limitations has clearly expired on spoilers, shut up.

The main character is a Little League pitcher from Montana named Chuck. In the first act he and his class tour a missile silo and learn that nuclear annihilation is just as far away as the press of a button. A couple bad dreams later and he decides he cannot abide the global peril in silence.

As a form of protest, Chuck walks off his Little League diamond. He vows not to play baseball again until there are no nukes left on Earth.  This becomes a scandal of sorts and attracts the interest of the local TV news outlet.  In the pre-internet era, Chuck’s story goes viral, and reaches a professional basketball player named “Amazing” Grace Smith.

Grace follows suit, walking away from his team in protest of nuclear proliferation. He moves from Boston to Montana to support Chuck.  The news of a professional athlete at the top of his game leaving his team to protest sends shockwaves through the professional sports world.  Several athletes from other sports follow Chuck and Grace’s example.

Grace buys a barn and the athletes start renovating it as residence.

Things don’t go so well for Chuck and his family at home. Many of their neighbors turn on them, and Chuck’s father blames him.

Grace, through his agent, gets the bulk of the media attention as the voice of the protest, but the story is really about a resolute little boy and his wish for a better world.

There are mustache-twirling villains, of course, secretive war profiteers who like things just the way they are.  And as more athletes and more importantly, MORE CHILDREN begin to make visible sacrifices for this cause, these villains decide that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

When that tragedy strikes, Chuck and the rest of America are devastated. Chuck decides it is time to go one step further, and by doing so he sends a shockwave across the civilized world and changes the stakes completely.

I’ll leave the resolution to you, the audience, to find for yourselves. Even I draw the line at spoiling the ending.

But the point I wish to make about this admittedly fantastical movie is important:

Look at what the athletes in this story were willing to give up for their cause.

They sacrificed their fame, their talent, and their LIVELIHOODS to speak their protest.

Colin Kaepernick appears to be suing the NFL for collusion to GET BACK ON THE FIELD, TO CONTINUE GETTING PAID.

Now, he may be doing so because he simply failed to predict the real consequences of what he chose to do.  But he has said that he will continue to protest if he is signed by another team. This tactic seems calculated to advance the man and not the cause. It makes me want to question which is more important to him.

On the other hand, perhaps it is possible that in real life, unlike the movies, anyone really can be replaced.

And maybe today’s professional athletes aren’t emotionally prepared to accept that.

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Author: Paul Krendler

The Thinking Man's Zombie

5 thoughts on “Protest On Your Own Time”

  1. There are protesting players that retain their jobs. Tom Brady could protest all he likes and he's going to start for the Patriots as long as he likes.

    But then, Tom Brady is not protesting. Tom Brady is too busy focusing on being the best quarterback he can be. This may be significant.

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  2. It is probably especially apparent in the NFL for several, re-enforcing reasons. First, I teach at a "mid-level state university" and even here the male basketball and football players are incredibly coddled. And they have been in many cases since at least junior high. Now imagine how they're treated at the major schools. Second, as you go up the hierarchy of talent the coddling increases. By the time the "stars" reach the pro leagues just imagine how that has affected almost all of them.

    Third, most of the top pros don't stay in college and don't really get much of an education outside of their sport. And that seems to go back to jr high, too. So they are generally pretty ill-educated. Many of the ones I've known are reasonably intelligent, but they've never had to use that for much of a reason outside their sport.

    Finally, basketball players play in "costumes" that allow them to be personally recognizable. Aside from the quarterback and a few stars most NFL players are only known by their size, if at all. (As a side note, 4 decades ago I was in an elevator in Kansas City with a 6-foot tall female advertising person when several males entered who topped her by at least a half foot. One was red-headed and a foot taller than she, When we all got off on the ground floor she whispered, "What the heck is that?" She had no idea who Bill Walton and the Seattle team were.) While many are recognizable by name, not many outside their team's town are recognizable by appearance. And personally, I wouldn't recognize "Steph" Curry on the street if he dribbled a basketball by me. But I know the name. Look at how many football players, after a big play, the first thing they do is rip off their helmet.

    So. Combine those reasons (and a few others) and you get the NFL 'protests'. The protesters are egged on by people who don't know them or care about them, for reasons of their own, but the players who protest get the recognition they so desperately desire, perhaps at the cost of their livelihood and even the industry itself.

    I suspect somewhat the same is going on in the entertainment world in general, it's just more obviously stupid in the NFL.

    Of course, the attention and money we put into pro sports is pretty stupid, too.

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  3. I liked that movie way back in the day...

    Funny how I came to work on the very weapons that movie took a stand against.

    I agree with you. If you really believe so much in your cause.... put something SIGNIFICANT and IMPORTANT on the line. Soldiers and sailors do it every damn day of their enlistment (goldbricking stolen valor shitrolling racist turd sniffers excluded, of course).

    Kneeling for the anthem costs nothing for minimal effort. The act of a sanctimonious pussy.

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    1. AS *THE* sanctimonious pussy, Bill would "take a knee" at the anthem if his Stage Eleventy Parkinson's didn't make it impossible. And as a battle-hardened veteran of stolen valor it would mean something, too. Alas, he's condemned, once again, to be "the last man standing."

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  4. I spent 22 years talking to customers. Twos, threesies, HUNDREDS- Yep. I'd be keynote speaker at conferences with several hundred folks attending.

    Never once did it ever occur to me to mention my personal politics. That's not my job. I was there to talk technology. Not offer my perspective on the outrage of the day.

    I despised Obama and hate Progressives. Hate their politics. Hate their lack of understanding of history. Hate their child-like belief in laws and regulations and the concept of 'perfectibility of man.' Hate their totalitarian tendencies and desires.

    But never once did I ever use any forum I had to denigrate or even joke about people on the Left.

    Not my job. Wasn't Kapernicks' job. Throw the ball on Sundays and then politic during the off season. That's what all athletes should do. Has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment. Which says, "CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW..."

    Nobody gets to bring their politics to work. Especially not in front of customers.

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