Honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing yet another politically centered sports column this week. I think I’m far more tired of writing them than you are of reading them and I swear to you, my readers, that I was actually just going to talk about Serena Williams shattering tennis records, or how awesome I think John Wall is. That’s it.
But then Donald Trump had to go and sign an executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries in a show of both incredibly baffling racism and shortsighted policy.
To quote Al Pacino, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” That’s how I feel about America’s political situation right now, and thankfully for my sanity, a good number of professional athletes and coaches are annoyed enough that I can play this off as a column about sports.
I really do find it fascinating though, that so many athletic personalities, from Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to professional driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., have openly and aggressively denounced the political nightmare that the opening two weeks of this presidency have thrust upon us. Athletes and coaches usually benefit from keeping their mouths shut and winning games. But, if anything, this particular season of the reality television show called “American Government” has elicited an unusual, but I suppose unsurprising, reaction from some of the sports world’s biggest personalities.
In discussing the recent travel ban, I think that Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry put it best.
“I think it’s bulls–t,” the three-time All Star said. “I think it’s absolute bulls–t.”
In times of incredible hate, intolerance and challenge to the values upon which this country claims to stand, I am not surprised that men and women like Lowry simply aren’t having it. As far as the National Basketball Association goes, I think the vehement anti-Trump reaction stems not only from basic common sense, but also from the diverse makeup of the league itself. The NBA is composed of a tremendous variety of races, religions, nationalities and economic backgrounds. It is an association of men who, despite different upbringings, faiths and traditions, have to come together on a nightly basis and find a way to work as a team.
Perhaps most important for this discussion, the NBA has benefited, and continues to benefit, from the unique perspectives of immigrant, Muslim and even former refugee players who help make the association what it is. That might be yet another reason that this executive order has hit NBA ballers so close to home. What’s more, many of the men who pack NBA arenas each night have experienced racism at a very personal level. Consequently, I’d guess that these guys are more than capable of calling it when they see it.
To be completely transparent, I’ve started to get really sick of feeling like I have to cover American politics in a sports column. When I started writing this column more than two years ago, it began as something fun, silly and occasionally insightful. But like many of the professional athletes whom I cover, I feel forced to comment on issues beyond the scope of what I originally intended to discuss. We are living in the sort of absurd time when reporters really do need to ask San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich what he thinks about the election. When you vote to put a dangerously incompetent and deeply prejudiced reality television star into the most powerful seat on the planet, this is what happens. We have reached a point of such incomprehensible abnormality that, hell; why not ask Kyle Lowry what he thinks about Donald Trump? The man plays basketball for a living, but at this point, I’ll take just about any perspective. If anything, I think the uptick in commentary from pro athletes, celebrities and other individuals outside of the political sphere comes from a place of fear and uncertainty. Sure, incompetent government can be ignored if you’ve got a nice enough mansion and a sufficiently hefty bank account, but when you no longer recognize the direction in which your country is headed, that’s a different story.
So, I’ll welcome the day when ballers can get back to balling and I can get back to arguing about whether LeBron could beat Jordan in a game of one-on-one, but at this point it doesn’t look like that day is coming anytime soon. Brace yourselves folks, I fear that the ride we’re on is only going to get bumpier.
Marc Cugnon is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .