The total ‘woke’ conquest of the pro-sports world
Sam Coonrod shouldn’t be waiting for a call from Nike. Unlike former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the pitcher for that city’s baseball Giants isn’t going to be rewarded for taking a lonely, principled stand.
Kaepernick received a multimillion-dollar endorsement contract from the sports-gear company for starting the trend of NFL players kneeling rather than standing at attention during the national anthem.
He landed more big bucks when the league settled a lawsuit with him because no team wanted him. He was a backup when he began his campaign, but due to the overwhelmingly positive coverage of his gesture — which he said was a protest against racism — he managed the kind of financial reward only a few stars get after they stop playing. Nike’s “Believe in something” marketing campaign transformed him into a cultural hero.
Meanwhile, Coonrod — the sole player on any team who didn’t kneel during a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement before the playing of the anthem on Opening Day — also believes in something. But as far as many sports scribes and pundits are concerned, he doesn’t believe in the right things. He was mocked for having spoken of his Christian faith, his opposition to kneeling to anything but God and questioning BLM’s radical ideology.
Coonrod was right. While BLM has an innocuous name, its agenda would tear down US history as well as the rule of law. But for voicing out loud what many daren’t say, he was pilloried as a “false Christian,” who is “swimming against the tide of history” (NBC Sports) and who stands “out like a sore thumb” (Sports Illustrated).
But wait, wasn’t Kaepernick lionized for standing on principle and conscience? It appears freedom of conscience is only praiseworthy when it is employed on behalf of fashionable leftist causes, not traditional faith and patriotism.
The hypocrisy here is astounding. But this story also illustrates the way the sports industry has been intimidated into bending the knee to a movement whose purpose goes far beyond concerns about police misconduct.
What a dramatic change from where we were in 2016, when Kaepernick started kneeling and other players joined in. The blowback from fans led to lower TV ratings for NFL games that made it clear that his gesture was deeply unpopular. But the ability of the BLM movement to use the George Floyd killing to mainstream its beliefs has now made people like Coonrod the outliers.
That’s how fast radicalism can shift corporate culture.
In the upcoming NFL season, it isn’t clear if anyone in the league will stand for the anthem, especially after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was beaten like a piñata for having the temerity to defend our national emblems.
The NBA is positively encouraging such ideological posturing, allowing players to wear slogans like “Black Lives Matter” on their uniforms, which are also an option for Major League Baseball players. Meanwhile, as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has pointed out, patriotic slogans, let alone ones critical of rights abuses in China — the NBA’s oppressive business partner — are not options.
MLB has tried its best to allow space for kneeling outside of the anthem. Yet some players, including two Yankees — Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks — say they’ll kneel for the anthem throughout the season.
Will this result in another backlash from disgruntled fans, many of whom want sports to be a refuge from toxic politics rather than an extension of the same divisive debates that are making everyone miserable?
Most are too desperate for a diversion from pandemic lockdowns to change the channel from their favorite pastimes. And league owners may also be betting that the conquest of pop culture by BLM ideology is now so pervasive that young viewers, like many of the players, are convinced it is necessary and normal to protest the rituals of American patriotism.
If so, that makes Coonrod’s refusal to kneel even more courageous, and a lot lonelier, than Kaepernick’s profitable political grandstanding.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org. Twitter: @JonathanS_Tobin
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