In baseball when you throw high and tight, you don’t have the moral high ground to get upset when it is your turn at bat and you get one near your chin.
But this is exactly what seems to be happening, as supporters of anthem protesting football players get upset when President Trump gets "political" with athletes who have decided to bring protests into the sporting arena.
But why wouldn’t the president get political? After all, he is a politician, and today’s activist athletes are giving him a gift that keeps giving. What American president wouldn’t pine for the opportunity to differentiate themselves from flag and anthem protestors, and for the opportunity to be the defender of the stars and stripes?
Nor can one blame the president for starting what is now a back and forth Twitter spat, as it was a handful of football players who started taking a knee long before Trump was even elected president that began us on this current political journey. But for those who feel sorry for the athletes Trump has been critical of, they would be wise to remember that when you make a political statement, politics is the ultimate hardball and contact sport, and someone will be out there playing defense to your offense. As Harry Truman would say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Although it may not be my place to point this out, it seems to me the anthem-protesting athletes have a messaging problem. Leaving emotions aside, what are the anthem protestors protesting? Police brutality? Racism? The military? America in general? Ask them individually and they’ll each have a slightly different answer. Talk about a muddled message.
Add to this, they have never adequately explained the following to Middle America: Why do the protests have to take place on the fans’ time, instead of the athletes’ personal time? Why do they make the anthem the focal point of their protests? Do they not realize what a bad optic that is, and that it turns off more would-be supporters of their cause than wins them over?
Illustrative of this was the recent NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Uber-talented wide receiver Randy Moss, who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame, wore a custom-made tie with 13 names of young African American men who died in a controversial manner after being involved with the police. "My intention was not to divide, we're divided enough. My intention was to love. I just wanted to show those families that they're not alone and bring some eyes and some light to the fact that, man, there's still some families really hurting out here."
Assuming his intention wasn’t to divide, wouldn’t his tie had been more impactful if he had added in among those 13 names, names of police officers killed in the line of duty? That would have shown that there are some police officers’ families who are also hurting and that by just putting on a police uniform doesn’t make you the enemy.
Intended or not, some of the athletes protesting seem to be asking Americans to choose either them or the police. Unfortunately for them, most Americans understand when they are in trouble and calling 911 it will be a police officer who shows up to try to help no matter the risk, not a professional athlete.
Until the activist athletes come up with a more consistent and palatable message, each political outburst will be seen as a large hittable softball, and President Trump will see it as an opportunity to take a swing at their cause.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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