Editorial: Our Guys
● By Richard Gaw
The narrative of sports is defined, negotiated and influenced by the course of a ball, usually in flight, that has been manipulated, nudged, struck and tossed by a group of individuals assigned to particular tasks on a field, a pitch, a rink, a course or a court. At its highest levels, such as on the professional level, sports requires extraordinary skill, precision and often, it produces a lot of hubris.
While requiring practically no physical skills, politics still requires the necessary act of moving and manipulating others to bend ideologies in an effort to enact rules, laws and policy. At its highest levels, politics demands persistence and determination and often, it produces a lot of hubris.
The debacle that became the dis-invitation last week of the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles to a White House celebration by the President of the United States was, quite simply, Hubris Squared, the clash of a known egomaniac with an organization whom we in Chester County affectionately refer to as Our Guys, and Our Guys won.
Donald Trump's 11th hour cancellation of a ceremony that was scheduled to take place in the White House Rose Garden last week could have been the kick starter for a national conversation about the very issues that have led several players to protest during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” before games: police brutality and systemic racism, among them.
Trump could have used the ceremony as a way to better understand that these protests are not an indictment against the American flag, and not undertaken in any way to disrespect the men and women of the American armed forces.
He could have used that conversation to learn that these protests are merely a touchstone, in an effort to establish a dialogue that will lead to the solving a problem that continues to rip away at the fabric of decency and respect.
None of this happened, of course. Instead, the visit of the Eagles to the White House seemed doomed from the start, and it just got worse, and why? It was because the President has chosen to fan the flames of a talking point that has become one of the torch lights of his presidency. He has taken this, the protests of N.F.L. players, and given it a mantel of importance that supersedes issues of world importance and this country's place within them.
Donald Trump does this because he is a master at appealing to our inner ugliness. He digs and digs because he knows it is there, somewhere – and when the better angels of our nature can no longer withstand his sweet, enticing pursuit of our buried biases, he thinks he has won. He thought he won when he said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!”
He thought he won when he accused N.F.L. players, two-thirds of whom are African-American, of having a “total disrespect of our heritage.”
His entire presidency rides on his ability to hammer home the message that division is meant to reduce Americans to “Us” and Them.” That's what happened when he turned the canceled appearance of the Super Bowl champions into a charade of self-grandiosity, a clown show of false patriotism that reduced two of the most honored tenets of our country – the American flag and our National Anthem – to symbolic pawns in his game. In a league that grows more complicit with Trump's doggerel and rules according to it, the courage displayed by several members of the Eagles, as well as by other professional athletes, proves that the act of civil disobedience in the face of forced Nationalism is still alive.
Last week's canceled White House ceremony was not the first time that Trump lost to a Philadelphia Eagle. Soon after the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017, the President referred to the riots by implying that there were “very fine people on both sides,” which sent out the message that torch-bearing racists were the equivalent to those who valiantly fought to stomp out the march. Eagles' defensive end Chris Long, a graduate of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, condemned the attack that happened near the campus of his alma mater, and later announced that he would be donating a portion of his 2017 player salary to fund scholarships to underprivileged middle school students in the state. Long is not the lone Eagle:
Carson Wentz' AO1 Foundation provides underprivileged youth with food, shelter and education; provides outdoor opportunities for veterans and the physically challenged; and provides service dogs to those in need. Wentz also donated $120,000 to Canine Partners for Life.
Nick Foles donated $250,000 in
June 2016 to build a new academic center at his alma mater, Arizona
State University, that will provide amenities for
student-athletes, including tutor rooms, study areas and a computer
Malcolm Jenkins' Malcolm Jenkins Foundation helps sustain football programs in underserved communities in states like New Jersey, Ohio and Louisiana. Jenkins also won the Byron “Whizzer” White Award for community service — the “highest honor the NFLPA can bestow on a player” for service.
Torrey Smith's Torrey Smith
Family Fund institutes programming to help disadvantaged young
people, by donating school supplies to low-income elementary school
students and hosting leadership summits for high school boys.
Zach Ertz bought 295 pieces of sporting equipment (approximately $15,000 worth of gear) for the Camden, N.J. after-school program.
Rodney McLeod teamed up with a Wilmington Food Lion in November 2016 to donate 200 bags of food to help families prepare their Thanksgiving dinners.
On Feb. 4, the Philadelphia Eagles stood together at the conclusion of the Super Bowl, and launched the Lombardi Trophy as the best team in the National Football League. Last week, they demonstrated again that they are, indeed, true champions.
slug: editorial june 13