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April 25, 2024

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A President by Title Only

POSTED: September 25, 2017, 7:00 am

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As the people of Puerto Rico cling to life, devastated by a hurricane that fits a pattern of climate change acknowledged by scientists but denied by some politicians, and human suffering abounds around the globe, the American president has interjected his two-cents into the role of professional athletes in advocating for justice. And unlike the terrorism of Charlottesville Virginia where he labeled those who take issue with the very principles of American democracy “decent people,” Black athletes who take a stand for justice are “sons of bitches” in the eyes of Donald Trump.

Let’s stop saying that Donald Trump’s behavior is beneath the dignity of the presidency. That’s like saying the WWE’s Vince McMahon betrays the respectability of American corporate leadership. After the likes of a Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Richard Nixon and others trolling the White House, the current occupant is just the latest deplorable to sit in the Oval Office. It’s not like the office of the President is some mystical place that transforms imperfect humans into moral giants. It’s the other way around. It is the individual who occupies that space who imbues the office with principles and ethics. In that sense, the presidency now accurately reflects the undignified character of the 45th president.

Donald Trump has let us know who he is, and what he represents. An election only confirms legal authority to lead, it does not validate moral leadership.

It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump used inflammatory rhetoric before a red meat crowd in the friendly confines of rural Alabama. Trump’s comments were strategic, a nod to his base that the candidate they voted for remains committed as president to return America to their idyllic days of Jim Crow America when Blacks knew their place. In the eyes of that cheering crowd, that was when America was great. His rebel yell was just a crasser version of Ronald Reagan’s campaign endorsement of state’s rights in the shadow of the site where three civil rights workers were murdered in1963 in Philadelphia Mississippi. It was the same message sans the sophistication of the great communicator. It’s no longer morning in America, it’s midnight.

Donald Trump is baiting us. His behavior is a sign of desperation in a man who sees his illusory presidency crumbling around him. He is being thwarted in his attempt to undo the signature policy of his predecessor, not by the opposition party but from within the ranks of the Republican Party. Trump is feeling the heat of Robert Mueller’s investigation that seems to inch closer to the Oval Office with each passing week. That “Russia thing” is now growing like a malignant tumor, eating away at vital organs and relentless in the damage it is inflicting. North Korea’s “rocket man” is in Trump’s head, egging this president on and trumping 45s masculinity with every missile test. The right-wing of his party is taking him to task for failing to deliver on any of his bombastic campaign promises. Remember how Obamacare was going to be repealed on day 1? His once reliable secondary communications staff – the Fox News Channel – is being picked over by lawyers circling its Manhattan studios like buzzards hovering over road kill. His disrespect of the White House press corps has created a legion of journalists who have dropped all pretense and regularly reveal their disdain for this president. And he is losing the cultural war too – as social media and late-night television skewer him with regularity.

“Donald Trump has let us know who he is, and what he represents. An election only confirms legal authority to lead, it does not validate moral leadership.”

So, what is a president to do when the walls around him come crumbling down? You play the only card that you have in your deck. You make a racist appeal in the hopes of distracting from your incompetence. However, in keeping with his general lack of discernment, Trump’s belief that he could turn outrage over his remarks into a rallying cry for his base is misfiring. What he is effectively doing is consolidating and growing the opposition to his presidency. Even for those Americans who may not understand the significance of Colin Kaepernick’s stand, and the support he is receiving from his fellow athletes, the idea that an American president would call players “sons of bitches” for standing up for what they believe is as un-American as it gets. That comment also reminds folks of Trump’s misogyny, and his infantile masculinity. His tough guy act has worn thin. Calling players out and lamenting a lack of barbarity in football from the safety of a stage in Alabama behind Secret Service protection is one thing. Being man enough to walk into an NFL locker room and looking in a player’s eye and calling him a son of a bitch is quite another task. Donald Trump is a classic coward and an embarrassment to this nation.

What happens on game day in an NFL stadium is but a moment, but an important moment nonetheless. The symbolic gesture of taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem should invite some introspection on the part of fans. Patriotic dribble in the form of playing the anthem and unfurling an oversized American flag is juxtaposed by the misery that exists just minutes from most of the palatial edifices, many of them constructed with public money, that host NFL teams. Name the city – Baltimore, Atlanta, Cleveland, Washington, Miami – and the luxury that exists within the confines of those team’s stadiums stands in stark contrast to the daily human rights abuses – police brutality being just one – that take place against the poor and Blacks and Latinos on a daily basis. Taking a knee during the national anthem is the most minimal response one can imagine against the tide of inhumanity in our country today.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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