Memo to Trump after his NFL rant: sport is, and always has been, political
The president says protesters must be fired and the Warriors cant come to the White House. He knows as well as Colin Kaepernick that everything is political
Politics and sport have been bedfellows since at least the birth of the ancient Olympic Games some 28 centuries ago, when city states that vied year-round for finite resources came up with a venue of bloodless competition to keep themselves from killing each other.
Even in antiquity the political intrigue that followed took on many forms. Tensions over hosting rights for the quadrennial festival were commonplace. And there were no shortage of athletes who, for political ends, competed under flags of convenience.
Spartas loan of three-time Olympic champion Chionis in 630 BC helped put the city of Cyrene on the map. And what of Astylos of Croton, double champion of the stade and diaulos in 488 BC, who was exiled from his fatherland after taking a bribe to compete as a citizen of Syracuse four year later, prompting his former neighbors to destroy his statue and turn his house into a prison.
Their stories and countless others might have been lost had historians like Thucydides, Xenophon and Pausanias followed the imperative familiar to athletes and journalists today: stick to sports.
The modern age has proven no more siloed: Jesse Owens staring down Hitlers master race in Berlin, Jackie Robinson shattering baseballs color barrier, Muhammad Alis conscientious objection, Fischer and Spasskys Cold War proxy battle, the Olympic boycotts of the 1980s. The truth is, the times when politics have been absent from sport are more extraordinary than when they havent.
Which brings us to Friday night in a multi-purpose arena in Alabama. Speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Donald Trump offered up a five-alarm take on NFL players who have kneeled in protest during the national anthem, urging the leagues cabal of owners including the seven who donated $1m or more to his campaign to cut loose any player who engages in the silent act of civil disobedience started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Wouldnt you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! Hes fired. Hes fired!