Letter to the editor: LeBron James no Rosa Parks

Letter to editor

It took extraordinary courage for Rosa Parks to refuse to move to the back of the bus. LeBron James can just tweet his protests from his seat in first class.  

Professional athletes are on a slippery slope in this country regarding speaking out against racial prejudice from their ivory towers.  They are further dividing and confusing us.  These multimillion dollar prima donnas are not the national race equality champions they would lead us to believe.  Their venue may be national, their intentions sincere, but their influence is questionable.  

You gotta know where you are on the court.    

I was at a local high school football game Friday night and observed several players kneeling for the national anthem.  Some players were holding hands, some were rocking back and forth with arms locked, some were actually singing along with the words.  Others had their heads bowed down, they either didn’t know the words and were embarrassed to sing (like me in church) or it was some sort of protest.  One kid, and I thought this said it all, was standing on his head throughout the national anthem.  I think he may have been singing as well, not sure.  I saw the coach go over and talk with him before kickoff, and noticed the kid sat on the bench for the entire game.  Maybe the coach should have had him stand on his head for the entire game.

As a substitute teacher at the school I knew most of these kids.  I asked them at school the following week, both in a group and some individually, why they were kneeling during the national anthem.  The group reply was, “Because this country sucks, man!”  A few of the individuals didn’t seem to know for sure, one kid said, “Because the others were doing it.”  The kid who stood on his head said, “Just trying to get some press.” 

When people like LeBron James and Steve Curry, and Colin Kaepernick, and other professional sports figures speak out against America not focussing intelligently on their specific cause, I hope they realize both the positive and negative implications of their actions.  They may be throwing fuel on the fire.  Just like president Trump is throwing fuel on every fire it is his job to extinguish.  They say they want to bring awareness to the problem of mistreatment of blacks of which we are all already very aware.  Their protests are not helping, they are only translating into a hatred for America, defocusing on both a cause and a solution, further dividing us and widening the racial gap.

There has been as much or more focus and legislation for equal rights as any other social issue.  All that is left remains in the hearts and minds of individuals, and that is something that will never change.  If Trump was impeached tomorrow, branded for being a racist, nothing regarding the racial issue would change.  In fact, it would only get worse.            

There was a time in America when sports brought us together as a country.  For better or worse, and there has always been a lot of worse, a sporting contest represented a common cause and allowed us to become unified within the context of the game while rooting for our favorite team and players.  Whether it was boxing, football, basketball, baseball or NASCAR, we were all just happy to be there together enjoying the game.  

Today, sports seems to have become a vehicle and venue, and catalyst, to divide us on such far reaching topics from the game as race, religion, politics, economics and social status.  

In 1942, less than one year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and when America was thrust into the depths of WW II declaring war on Japan and already embroiled in the war in Europe, it was a sports event that helped to relieve the national tensions and bring the country together for better or worse, and there was a lot of worse then as well regarding race, religion, politics, economics and social status.  But somehow we pulled together and not apart.

The traditional Army-Navy football game was to be canceled.  It just didn’t seem appropriate.  The country was not in the mood for a football game, especially between the Navy’s Annapolis Midshipmen and the Army’s West Point Cadets when the the war in the Pacific and in Europe was killing it’s midshipmen and cadets, Americas’ sons and daughters, by the hundreds daily.  There were travel bands, rationing, recycling drives, and blackouts as german U-boats prowled our eastern seaboard sinking ships within sight of Coney Island off New York harbor.  There were so many other logistical problems and issues that it just didn’t seem worth it or be feasible to play the game.  

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and others in the government, Army and Navy brass in particular, ultimately decided to go ahead and play the game in an effort to foster a national pride and unity, and in defiance of the psychological forces that could serve to divide an already paranoid, frightened country.  Their hopes were that the game would serve as a national respite from the burgeoning war and revive a positive feeling toward national unity and our common bond as a country of diverse individuals.  

Army vs. Navy, the traditional rivalry.  Bitter enemies on the football field, brothers and sisters in arms defending America.

The Navy won that 1942 football game 14-0, but it didn’t matter.  The game accomplished its purpose.  As the score was leaning toward Navy in the last quarter, and in the spirit of the original purpose of the game, the Navy sent a bunch of its Midshipmen into the Army Cadets’ cheerleading section …to root for Army.  Brothers and sisters in arms.  There were tears in the crowd, and also on each sideline bench.  The Army players expressed their gratitude for the gesture and congratulated Navy on their win.

The difference between now and then regarding our national attitude is staggering.  We have gone from a unified country with a common bond to a severely divided country with a shameful attitude toward our commonality.

9/11 created that same spark of national pride and caring for each other, but it soon evaporated into a political quagmire of race and religion and a platform to further divide the country. 

Our American history is fraught with mistakes and shameful episodes.  The indigenous Indians and the African slaves foremost, but also how we all treat each other generally.  Every immigrant and ethnic person who comes to this country goes through a hazing.  Some more severe and prolonged than others.  It’s cruel, disgusting and humiliating.  It’s human nature.  Everyone has to fight to stay afloat, to survive.  We are a botched species. 

Donald Trump, the tweeting divider, is no FDR who actually did something to unify America.  Neither is LeBron James a Rosa Parks.

— John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.

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