NFL v Trump identity politics at its worst

NFL v Trump identity politics at its worst, by Greg Sheridan.

There is nothing more tragic, foolish, futile, unnecessary and destructive right now in American public life than the dispute between the National Football League and President Donald Trump. It is worth our paying some attention because it demonstrates exactly where identity politics must lead. It is where we [in Australia] are headed ourselves if we continue the trend of allowing the divisive insanity of identity politics increasingly to dominate our political culture.

The iconic image of the dispute is of powerful black athletes in the NFL kneeling while the US national anthem is played before matches. The players kneel not to show respect but the opposite. They refuse to stand to honour the anthem because they believe America is so irredeemably racist and rotten. …

From the start this was a classic identity politics protest in three ways. First, its grievances and demands were diffuse, non-specific and impossible to satisfy. Therefore, anyone not involved in the protest, even if they had exemplary life records of inclusion and anti-racist activism themselves, was ruled morally delinquent if they did not endorse the protest.

Second, it made the protest against the national anthem, which has always been a symbol of unity in America. … It calls the nation together. And for many Americans it is sacred. Therefore, in protesting injustice, some of it undoubtedly real, some of it plainly imagined or exaggerated, the protest gratuitously insults countless people of goodwill.

And third, it condemns America as inherently corrupt, immoral and unworthy.

The mainstream media loves this stuff and “taking the knee”, which earned players a lot of attention and hero status in some subcultures, started to spread. NFL owners didn’t like it. The fans hated it.

Trump stands against identity politics and the media, again:

The issue exploded when Trump saw his opportunity. Out of the blue he riled up a big Alabama rally by demanding that those “sons of bitches” who disrespected the anthem and the flag be immediately sacked by NFL club owners.

Trump’s comments were a disgrace — polarising, opportunistic and profoundly unpresidential.

He transformed the issue from one of foolish political disrespect from overpaid sports stars to freedom of speech. He injected immense emotional intensity in a way that only a president can do. It was at the very least profoundly, grievously irresponsible.

At first it seemed that Trump had miscalculated. Many NFL owners, including those who had supported Trump, stood in solidarity with their players against Trump’s abuse. A few, not many, took the knee themselves. Others locked arms in solidarity with their players. In one poignant episode only one team player — a military veteran — determinedly stood for the anthem.

And of course the media went crazy condemning Trump, much of which condemnation was deserved.

But it is by no means clear that in terms of crude politics Trump is the loser here. When the players and the management refuse to stand for the anthem, they are roundly booed by the crowds.

Disapproval across the whole community of the Black Lives Matter campaign, which alleges systematic racism by police forces throughout America, has risen in the past few months from 20 per cent to 60 per cent.

The new left:

The thrust of liberalism in the 19th and 20th centuries was to eradicate distinctions based on race. The whole purpose of identity politics is to entrench, to regard as determinative, distinctions based on race and other identity categories such as sexual orientation, gender and so on. …

Liberal identity politics begets white identity politics. …

The demands of identity politics are irrational and never-ending. … No end to it. And it’s all miserable. Decent people should oppose it root and branch.

hat-tip Stephen Neil