川普在阿拉巴馬州的共和黨選舉造勢活動中，以「狗娘養的」等言語，攻擊前 NFL 四分衛科林．卡佩尼克（Colin Kaepernick）和他的追隨者，在演奏國歌時選擇單膝跪下的抗議行為。卡佩尼克是 NFL 舊金山 49 人隊的四分衛，在上個賽季時，他以在賽場演奏國歌時單膝下跪，抗議美國的種族不公而聞名，他說：
在此補充一下背景資料：過去幾年來，美國發生了一系列致命的警察槍擊事件，受害者多是黑人。這導致美國爆發了一連串反對「執法過當」和「種族歧視」的抗議行動。然而，卡佩尼克「拒絕站立向國家致敬」的抗議行動引發爭議，且在 2017 賽季結束之前，他未獲原球隊的續約，也未得到任何球隊的合約。
對此他的支持者再次將其歸咎於種族主義──儘管他在球場的表現，從 2012 年新秀賽季結束後便穩步下滑。
川普選擇卡佩尼克作為箭靶，並且挑釁 NFL 的球員們──他公開表示，在演奏國歌時下跪表達抗議的 NFL 球員是「狗娘養的」，並且都該被球團老闆們解僱。
川普的批評者們──即使先前也認為演奏國歌下跪，是造成反效果的錯誤手段──紛紛因川普沒有總統高度的言論，支持下跪抗議行動，以抨擊他的行為。例如 NFL 的許多球團老闆們，過去曾是川普的支持者，如今也改為選擇支持抗議的球員：有「美國之隊」之稱的知名球隊「達拉斯牛仔隊」（Dallas Cowboy）球團老闆傑瑞．瓊斯（Jerry Jones），就與球員們共同單膝跪地表態（儘管是在演奏國歌之前）；整個「匹茲堡鋼人隊」（Pittsburgh Steelers）也共同抵制國歌儀式──只有一位身為退伍軍人的球員維拉紐瓦（Alejandro Villanueva）例外。
結果，由於這些激化的抗議行動，「反對這些抗議行動的抗議行動」也應運而生──因為仍有一半（或以上）的 NFL 粉絲，將演奏國歌時下跪，視為一種不愛國的舉動。福斯新聞網調查顯示，55％ 的美國人認為，在演奏國歌時跪下是不合適的。而根據 CNN 民調：43％的美國人認為，球員跪下抗議是正確的事情；49％ 的美國人則認為他們做錯了。
（有趣的是，當卡佩尼克開始其抗議行動的 2016 年 8 月底到 9 月（歐巴馬時任美國總統），根據路透社民調，有 72％ 的美國人認為其舉動是「不愛國的」；61％的美國人認為其抗議舉動不恰當──在川普要求球團老闆開除抗議球員後，這個數字則明顯下降。）
同樣地，NBA 主席亞當．席佛（Adam Silver）也宣布，聯盟規則將繼續要求球員在演奏國歌儀式中站立致敬。
川普獲得勝利，而這裡的大輸家則是 NFL、NBA 和媒體──他們認為川普挑起的「文化大戰」，將只會傷害到他自己，但這是錯估了情勢──以 NBA 為例，在賽前演奏國歌，球員站立致敬的規則，是數十年的傳統。（1996年，Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf 就因在演奏國歌時坐著，而被聯盟停賽）。
「川普會的事情不多，但他卻極其惡劣地擅於挑釁和打臉知識菁英（wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites）──他不必建立新的文化，甚至不必討好主流。他只需要拆毀固有的價值。」
我們應該早已警覺，川普成為一個「無差別冒犯者」（equal opportunity offender）的傾向：無論會造成多大的反撲，他也完全不怕說出自己的想法──他羞辱所有人，甚至包括自己的內閣成員。
然而，關於這場川普與 NFL 之間的戰爭，儘管在「呼籲」球隊老闆開除抗議球員時，他的手段已經超乎常規，我們也必須考量到川普背後的算計：他是在阿拉巴馬這個保守州的共和黨初選造勢場合期間，提出前述的挑釁言論。
在這場「文化戰爭」中，除了川普乖張的言論之外，關於政治抗議的價值，以及它該如何進行才得以彰顯，仍有一些重要的啟示值得參考──這些啟示不僅可以使 NFL 球員正在做的事（以及各種反對種族歧視的抗議活動）更有效，也有助於國家的凝聚。
1963 年，在黑人民權運動歷經長期抗爭，達到高峰時，其實不同的民權團體派系，已經連結成廣泛的聯盟，並就彼此想要推動的目標進行協商。因此到該年 8 月知名的「進軍華盛頓」（March on Washington）時，任何跟隨活動的人，都可以清楚地辨識兩個主要訴求──為非裔美國人提供更好的工作，以及編纂保障民權的法律。
而在該運動之後不到一年，歷史性的《民權法案》（Civil Rights Act）便於國會立法通過，落實成為法律。
從馬丁．路德．金恩博士以「我有一個夢想」（I have a dream）為名的演講開始，我們看到的是一個致力於凝聚、而非譴責美國的理想性召喚：「當我們共和國的建造者們寫下《憲法》和《獨立宣言》的宏偉言辭時，也是在向每個後世的美國人許下承諾，」金恩博士說：「這個承諾是屬於所有人的──是的，黑人和白人皆然──保障每個人不可剝奪的生命，自由和追求幸福的權利。」
大多數的美國人，對討論警察執法是否「野蠻過當」和「種族不公」都持開放態度，但多數人傾向認同「警察有好有壞」也是事實，更有一部分民眾，高度尊重執法單位──正如我們在紐約常看到街頭小販販賣 NYPD 的帽子，或在電視上播放的「CSI」、「法網遊龍」（Law and Order）等影集。
事件發展至此，無可避免的，由卡佩尼克所開啟的 NFL 抗議活動，如今也被迫必須捍衛卡佩尼克本人對美國的「願景」──而此願景至今看來，與其說像金恩，不如說更接近 Macolm X。
因此，對社會運動者、抗議者而言，最重要的任務，是「拉高格局」（go high）──就如蜜雪兒．歐巴馬（Michelle Obama）所說的那樣。
President Trump picked a fight with the NFL, the NBA and the media. He won a petty victory. Trump picked his fight by attacking former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Kaepernick’s followers who chose to kneel for the national anthem while he was on the campaign trail in Alabama. Kaepernick was a former NFL quarterback who was famously known to kneel during the national anthem last season in order to protest the perceived injustice in America, to which he said:“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
To provide some context, there has been a series of incidents of fatal police shootings over the past years in which the victims were black. This resulted in a series of protest against excessive use of force and the undertone of racism. However, Kaepernick's protest caused controversy and by the end of the 2017 season, he was not signed by any team, to which his supporters again attribute it to racism, though his performance has steadily declined after his breakout rookie season in 2012.
By picking Kaepernick as his target, Trump claimed ownership of the flag and the national anthem. Trump went on to suggest that players who knelt should be fired by the NFL owners, though the comment was inappropriate coming out of the mouth of a government official, needless to say President, it did serve one crucial purpose of making his opponent double down on the aforementioned gesture. His critics, instead of agreeing that kneeling was counterproductive and wrong, but also stating that Trump’s commentary wasn’t worthy of the presidency, they chose to double down, chastising the President. NFL owners, many who were Trump supporters chose to support the protesting players, the flamboyant owner of "America's team" the Dallas Cowboy Jerry Jones kneeled together with the players (though before the anthem) and the entire Pittsburgh Steelers boycotted the anthem ceremony with the exception of one former service member.
As a result of these protest, there is a movement of counter protest as more than half of the fans viewed the kneeling as an unpatriotic gesture. polls show that 55 percent of Americans think kneeling during the anthem is inappropriate, according to a Fox News poll; 43 percent of Americans say the players did the right thing by kneeling, according to a CNN poll. That’s a massive drop from September 2016: that month, a Reuters poll showed that 72 percent of Americans saw Kaepernick’s protest as unpatriotic,” and 61 percent said they did not “support the stance Colin Kaepernick is taking and his decision not to stand during the national anthem.” The interesting point here is that the number that were against kneeling actually dropped after Trump went too far by asking owners of these football teams to fire the protesting players.
After a weekend of protests, teams have moderated their stance, numerous teams have announced that they will cease to protest during the national anthem ceremony, though the favorability rating of the league has dropped considerably. Similarly, Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, announced that league rules would continue to mandate that players stand during the anthem. So, here’s the most simplistic and obvious version of the last week’s events: players knelt; Trump ripped them and threatened boycotts; players stopped kneeling. Trump wins. The big losers here are the NFL and the NBA and the media who thought that Trump’s leap into the culture wars would somehow hurt him. It's not a complete account — the NBA, for example, has had a rule about standing for the anthem going back decades (in 1996, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sat for the anthem and was suspended by the league).
However, there is a difference between Trump winning and conservatism winning. Trump is a “culture war” President, as many pundits have been discussing over the past month. As David Brooks, the conservative columnist at NYT and a fierce critic of Trump has written:
Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.
That’s exactly what he’s doing. Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.
We should now be aware of Trump’s tendency of being an “equal opportunity offender”, he is not afraid to speak his mind no matter how much backlash it will create, unafraid to insult even members of his own cabinet, simply put, he picks fight whether or not they are warranted. For this fight he picked with the NFL however, while he overplayed his hand in encouraging the owners to fire protesting players, we also need to take into account that he made these comments during a Republican primary election event in Alabama, which is a very conservative state. As I have previously written, football has a very important place in the heart of blue collar, rural America, on Friday, they go to their local high school football games, Saturday, they tailgate for NCAA Football games and on Sunday it is church and then football. As pointed out in a poll, the audience of football is largely white, and reuters even suggested that its audience is largely conservative in their political belief as it is a sport that stresses masculinity, discipline and violent collision. Therefore, I do not think it is a coincidence that Trump used the venue of a stomp speech to pick this fight, he is aware of that the protest is unpopular and he knows he is at a friendly confine that will support him.
There are some important lessons to be learned being lost in the culture war besides Trump’s flamboyant rhetoric, and it is about the value of political protest and how it should be conducted. These could not only make what NFL players are doing (and related protests against racial injustice) more effective, but help the country come together.
Firstly, lets look back to the civil rights movement and how they worked hard on messaging, specifically positive messaging. In 1963, they brought in broad coalitions and had negotiations for what goals they wanted to push for. By the time the March on Washington occurred that year, anyone following the event could clearly discern two messages: Better jobs for African-Americans, and laws codifying civil rights protections. The landmark Civil Rights Act was passed into law less than a year later in a bipartisan manner.
From the beginning of King’s “I have a dream” speech, we see it is a call to live up to, rather than denouncement, of the American ideals. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” MLK said. “This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
King was appealing to patriotism. He is clearly saying if you believe in the principles laid out in the Declaration and the Constitution, you can’t tolerate racial injustice—a message as true today as it was then. One of the lessons of the civil rights movement is that appealing to patriotism and American values is an effective route to moving public opinion. When the Pittsburgh Steelers protested by not attending the national anthem ceremony, it not only failed to appeal to patriotism, the antic looked worse when a single veteran stepped out to honor the anthem, then apologized after the game for failing to follow the coach’s order to not sing the national anthem.
Secondly, Kaepernick, who started the protest, showed up at a press conference to discuss the rationale of his protest wearing a T-shirt depicting the famous photo of Malcom X meeting Fidel Castro at a game in Florida, where there is a large population of Cuban expats. Kaepernick got questioned by a reporter from the local paper, who is a Cuban exile, for his fashion choice, it did not really help his cause. Soon after this incident, he was then seen at practice wearing socks depicting cops as pigs.
Most Americans are open to discuss police brutality and racial injustice, but it’s also true that while there are bad cops there are good cops, and a sizable portion of the populace hold law enforcement in high regard, as we can see in New York, street vendors sell NYPD hats, and on TV we see TV shows such as CSI and Law and Order. Yet, the NFL even refused to allow the Cowboys to honor the five police who were slain at a Black Lives Matter protest last year. Inevitably, the fact the NFL protests were started by Kaepernick means having to defend Kaepernick’s vision of America, which so far, more in line with Macolm X than MLK.
Lastly, for any other real progress to happen, you’d need an organized civil rights movement with clear goals that respects American values, lets remember, ultimately the Civil Rights Movement was passed in a bi-partisan manner, with Lyndon Johnson, a democrat, reaching out to the Republican to counter the Southern Democrats who were in support of racial segregation, which is something I will touch upon later. Therefore, the most important task for the protesting faction is to “go high”, as Michelle Obama said. In the face of such ineffective opposition, it sure looks like President Trump won a clear cultural and political victory attacking the NFL.
Photo Credit： mark reinstein＠Shutterstock