“U Bum”: Here’s Why Trump Is At War With America’s Athletes

It's been a big weekend...

take a knee

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You’ve probably seen pictures today of American athletes kneeling. You may have also seen the hashtag #TakeAKnee. And if you’re particularly unlucky, you’ll have seen the Trump speech where he refers to athletes as sons of a bitches and openly encourages disdain for them.

That speech was on Friday and since then there’s been a small revolution on the sporting fields of America. High-profile sportspeople across the US have been taking a knee (dropping to one knee rather than standing during the national anthem) in defiance of Trump and his careless dismissal of a pretty important protest.

If you’ve got no idea what’s going on, what’s being protested, or how this whole thing escalated overnight, we’ve got you.

The One Where The President Called Athletes Sons Of Bitches

On Friday night, while giving a speech in Alabama, Trump went off the rails (again), this time targeting NFL players who refuse to stand for the national anthem before games.

“I’d love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired!'” is how the President of the United States chose to phrase his nuanced opinion.

“That’s a total disrespect for our heritage,” he continued, “that’s a total disrespect for everything that we stand for.” Except, y’know, free speech — that value Trump’s happy to champion when white supremacists are involved but won’t uphold for people of colour.

“And you know what, the NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be that they like watching what’s happening on, you know, with yours truly,” he said, gesturing to himself. He then encouraged people to leave the stadium if they see players taking a knee during the anthem, saying the game wasn’t that good now anyway after rules were implemented to help prevent head injuries.

You can watch the speech here if you want to suffer, but honestly probably don’t.

Since then, the response has been overwhelming: sportspeople across America have been taking a knee in defiance of his outburst. But they’ve also been taking a knee for a while now, for a reason that goes beyond just Trump and his antics.

How Did This All Start?

Colin Kaepernick is a name worth knowing. He’s an NFL quarterback, currently not signed to any team, and in 2016 he began speaking openly about why he refused to stand for the national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour,” he said.”To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

To say it was bigger than football was an understatement. In 2016, 266 black people — predominantly black men — were killed by police in the US. As the Black Lives Matter movement has repeatedly highlighted, many of these people were unarmed and innocent. Many of their killers have not been brought to justice.

The first few times Kaepernick sat or knelt during the anthem, no one questioned it. Eventually, though, he began to attract media attention, which only grew as he reaffirmed his commitment to using his platform to make a point. Over time, more and more players joined him, drawing media attention and public controversy and, evidently, Trump’s ire.

Trump, however, is either wilfully ignorant or genuinely has no idea what’s going on. On the weekend, he told a reporter that “this has nothing to do with race. I never said anything about race.”

It’s worth noting that while Colin Kaepernick is associated with the advent of this movement in the NFL, protest in sports is nothing new. Sports players have been getting political since sport began, and they’ve been getting political about the Black Lives Matter movement since well before Kaepernick. If you read anything else today, read this piece about the Women’s NBA players who’ve been taking a courageous stand for black lives for over a year.

“U Bum”: LeBron James Delivers The Greatest Smackdown Ever

We’d be remiss if we didn’t now mention “u bum”: the most succinct, profound and fitting sledge of Donald Trump to ever surface. These perfect words were tweeted by basketball legend LeBron James, after Trump began to get personal in his vendetta against protesting sportspeople.

Specifically, Trump was targeting NBA player Stephen Curry, who told reporters on Friday that he felt his team should decline an offer to visit the White House.

“I think we would, in normal times, easily be able to set aside political views, and go visit and have a great time,” he said, “but these are not ordinary times”, noting that Trump had made it “really difficult for us to honour that institution”.

Trump, true to his nature, could not resist tweeting that Curry’s invitation had been withdrawn in response.

To which LeBron James tweeted these immortal words:

All hail LeBron James. What a guy.

#TakeAKnee Takes Off

Since Trump’s comments, more and more athletes have been taking a knee in solidarity and defiance. Sometimes entire teams have done so, other times one or two members of a team have made the immensely courageous decision to kneel alone.

Other sportspeople and supporters have taken to social media to voice their support, including military veterans who challenge Trump’s assertion that their sacrifice is reason to stand.

Trump, meanwhile, has continued to double down on his comments, and his supporters have launched calls to boycott the NFL as long as players kneel for the anthem.

Knowing Trump, there’s no telling how long he’ll spend flogging this issue while avoiding addressing his ignorance. We also don’t know at this point whether fans will stand with their teams taking a knee, or join the boycott. We can only hope that this storm of media attention helps start the right kind of conversations about race, beginning to address some of the reasons people have been taking a knee in the first place.

There’s also this suggestion:

Sam Langford is Junkee’s Staff Writer. She tweets at @_slangers.