When I read this tweet, I hadn’t heard the context yet, so I want to focus first on the tweet itself.
Last time I checked, being an NFL player was a job, not a privilege. It’s not a privilege the way you have a driver’s license or access to top secret documents. It’s a privilege in the sense of good manners to say “it’s an honor and a privilege to play for the good folks of” whereever. If anyone has the ability to do anything on that field other than do an impression of an accordion, they belong on that field. And, I suppose in the broadest sense, working your entire life to become a professional football player falls under the “pursuit of happiness.” People pay to see you make their team win, if I can oversimplify it. There is NOTHING in the rulebook that says you have to start a game with a national anthem, and there is nothing in the contract of an NFL player saying he has to stand during the national anthem.
Any black player who refuses to salute the flag is part of a tradition that dates back to Jackie Robinson. In his book, “I Never Had it Made,” he reflected that he was only the supporting character in the Dodgers’ manager Branch Rickey’s “noble experiment.”
“I cannot stand and sing the anthem.” He wrote, “I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
I cannot express to you the danger that a sitting president of the United States is supporting Confederate monuments while at the same time wagging his finger at athletes who are using their First Amendment rights to non-violently protest the mistreatment of blacks who aren’t rich and famous. Also, I think it’s extremely dangerous that the same president is threatening to start World War 3 and at the same time he condemns peaceful protest.
I don’t think that Trump is racist in that he’d support a million blacks being sent to the gas chamber; he’s racist in that he’s ignorant. It’s a type of “soft bigotry.” I don’t believe that Trump would ever hold a knife and rape a woman behind a dark alley, but he wouldn’t take steps to understand the trouble women go through to maintain agency over who gets to touch their bodies. I would say he’s ignorant, he is mentally lazy—or just plain selfish—because is unable to understand what it is like to be anything except a rich, straight, cis-gender, white male.
(And if you’re wondering how he can “love the poorly educated” and speak about the plight of poor people in the rust belt and the south—he’s lying. That’s what con men do.)
Trump not understanding white privilege is like a fish not understanding what water is. If you want to see white privilege in action, it’s not some velvet rope with a sign that says “white males only” and on the other side there’s blowjobs and ice cream for all. It’s feeling so well-represented that you can call someone else unpatriotic for not saluting the flag—when the person not saluting feels that the country—not the flag, but the country it represents—doesn’t care about them, and the people they love.