We are seeing an increase in black Americans expressing disagreement with the woke culture and recognizing the damage it is doing. Back on 9 May, a retired Marine friend weighed in on the dangers of woke culture being forced on the military. Here is his take on the negative impact of woke activist-athletes who might seek to use the upcoming Olympics as their platform. His insights are truly outstanding!
As a kid back in the early 1970s, when excessive fighting almost ruined the National Hockey League, there was a running joke that went something like this: “The other night I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!”
Today, it seems like that joke could be re-written: “The other night, I went to a protest, and a basketball game broke out!”
Political activists in sports are not a new phenomenon. Baseball legend Jackie Robinson was willingly thrust into it by breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1947. Robinson endured indignities, which included not being able to stay in the same hotels and eat in the same restaurants as his white teammates. Add to that the bigotry he endured from opposing teams and fans. Robinson knew what was in store for him but understood the big picture. Thus, he agreed with Dodgers team owner Branch Ricky to “have the courage NOT to fight back” for his first two years. He did it not just for himself, but for those who would follow, and the entire country is better for it.
Boxing great Muhammed Ali gave up his title and nearly lost his career in refusing to be drafted in protest of the war in Vietnam. Ali would continue to be a civil rights activist for the rest of his life along with others like NFL great Jim Brown and NBA greats Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In 1971, male pro tennis players didn’t like having to split prize money with the ladies, who felt they were being forced out. These were REAL issues and highlighted larger issues that went beyond tennis and sports in that era. So, what did the ladies do about it? Led by Billie Jean King, a small group of female players broke away and started their own tour. It started slowly but gained steam. Working with sponsors and promoters, giving of their time in communities, and delivering a good product on the court, these ladies proved they could help grow the sport, and generate fans and revenue. To this day, Women’s tennis, and women in general, benefit from the courage of those ladies from the 1970s Virginia Slims Tour, as noted here.
Times change, and so has activism. What is different from the activist-athletes back then and now? Perhaps the most notable is those earlier athletes had real issues and counted on good and decent Americans to understand – and we did. The athletes mentioned above were also every bit as passionate about their causes as the athletes of today, but most of them kept their activism off the field. They shed light on policies and practices that demonstrably hurt innocent people – and did so without condemning their country. Those earlier athletes never took a knee during the National Anthem. They were Americans first and always. Finally, when those athletes took to the field, they understood that fans came to watch a sporting event, not a protest. When it came time to play, they let their talent do the talking.
That concept is lost on the modern day woke activist-athlete and the enablers in social and sports media. Today, you don’t even have to be that good to get noticed, so long as you openly align yourself with a cause supported by the political left. It’s often difficult to understand even what the cause is, as many of woke can only speak in platitudes. But who cares, so long as they are demonstrating their own wokeness, or so it seems.
Most of you are aware of Gwen Berry, who recently won a spot on the US Olympic Team by placing third in the hammer throw at the Olympic Trials. Berry then took offense at the playing of the National Anthem by turning her back and covering her face. In doing so, Berry drew so much attention to herself that most people don’t even know the names of the two ladies who placed ahead of her. That would be DeAnna Price who came in first while setting multiple records, and Brooke Anderson who finished second.
— New York Post (@nypost) June 27, 2021
This is not the first offense for Ms. Berry. During the 2019 Pan Am Games, she stood on the platform to accept a gold medal with a raised fist, knowing it was in violation of the rules.
Berry is not a newcomer. She’s been competing in international competition since 2010 and is a decorated world class track & field athlete. During those years, there are multiple photos of Berry posing with and embracing the American Flag. Here’s one example from the New York Post:
— New York Post (@nypost) July 1, 2021
Somewhere along the line, Ms. Berry became woke. A read of her bio shows that she hails from Ferguson, MO, the same town where Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in 2014. I don’t bring that up to rehash the “Hands up, don’t shoot” debate, but to provide a bit of context on her behalf.
As nationwide calls mounted for her to be “canceled,” Gwen Berry gave assurances that she does not hate her country. But that isn’t quite the same as saying you love your country, is it? Instead, Berry repeatedly proclaims, “I love my people.” She doesn’t say who her people are. We can infer that she means black people, but I could be wrong.
When asked in this interview what her issue is with the actual Anthem, Ms. Berry explains the third stanza is disrespectful to her people, and says if you know your history, the third verse of that song talks about the blood of slaves being spilled all over the floor.
Well, I know enough of my history to know that the third stanza of Key’s poem IS NOT part of the actual song. At least not today. But as a black man myself, I get where she’s coming from:
And where is the band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battles confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more
Their blood has washed out their foul steps pollution
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave
And the star spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and home of the brave
As the third stanza became more widely known, it also became red meat for the woke crowd. But to take issue with that stanza does not reveal the intelligence of the woke, as it fails to provide any context.
First, we have to be careful in interpreting the English of centuries past. Anyone who’s read Shakespeare would agree. Notice even Key’s prose reads like a form of English that few of us would write or speak 200 years later. When we read “hireling and slave” today, we think of blacks on the plantation. But is that who Key is referring to? In Key’s time, that phrase was a pejorative term often aimed at those one disagreed with or who chose an unfavorable side, group or country. It could also be used to describe military organizations one did not like, and was used in writings long before Key wrote his famous poem.
During the War of 1812, Key was inspired to write that poem after witnessing the horrific naval bombardment of Fort McHenry during the critical Battle of Baltimore at the hands of the British. While the British did employ a small number of escaped slaves in their Royal Marines during the battle, those escaped slaves were not from America, and there is no evidence to suggest Key even knew they were present. So, why would he only focus on them? Thus, any conclusion that Key is cheering for spilling the blood of African American slaves is unfounded. He was simply using an expression of the day in his own way of talking smack at an arrogant enemy who just hit us with their best shot and failed. He was also trying to write a poem, so note how the expression neatly rhymes with “save” and “grave”.
I wonder if Ms. Berry knows of the free blacks who willfully volunteered to fight for the United States, and/or support the war effort. This was a worthy cause, as blacks showed they were willing to sacrifice for their country. This included many free blacks in and around Baltimore who were skilled laborers, artisans and mechanics, who often volunteered to work alongside slaves in support of the war. If Ms. Berry loves her people, she should love (and respect) them, too.
We should also remind Ms. Berry of how our British enemy engaged in the practice of impressing foreign seaman, to include Americans, and forcing them to serve in the Royal Navy. That sounds like slavery on both sides to me, but I digress.
The Brits did not trust they had sufficient ground forces to take Baltimore by land, so their strategy was to lead with a naval bombardment to reduce Fort McHenry. During that September day and rainy night in 1814, the Royal Navy employed ships that outranged the guns of the Fort’s batteries and launched thousands of cannon shots and rockets on Baltimore and the Fort for over 24 hours. Several Americans were wounded, but a surprisingly low number at McHenry were actually killed. One of the casualties was an escaped slave named William Williams, who enlisted in the 38th US Infantry and was present at Fort McHenry. Williams would later die of his wounds.
The following morning, as the smoke cleared and the sun rose over the harbor, Major George Armistead, Fort McHenry’s commander, ordered the lowering of the smaller, tattered battle flag, and the raising of a large new garrison flag he had ordered. So large that even the British could see it from offshore. Since Ms. Berry wants to know her history, she might be interested in knowing that a young African American seamstresses named Grace Wisher helped build that flag, which still exists and can be viewed at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
Seeing those broad stripes and bright stars, the Royal Navy realized they had failed to reduce Fort McHenry, and the Americans still had the will and the means to fight. American militia had also been waging counterattacks against nearby British-led forces on the ground. An American sniper managed to mortally wound General Robert Ross, the competent and respected leader of the British ground forces. The next day, upon learning the Royal Navy had given up, the demoralized British ground forces also withdrew from the battle. Offshore, aboard a British ship negotiating a prisoner exchange, Francis Scott Key had a ringside seat to witness the horrific shelling of the Fort, as well as the gigantic star-spangled banner waving in defiance the following morning. A lawyer by trade, heretofore not considered a great patriot, what Key witnessed made him proud to be an American. O say can you see by the dawn’s early light?
I am not excusing or condoning the Democrat Party-led institution of slavery, which Republicans would put an end to in the coming years. My intent is to add missing context, not that it matters to the woke crowd. The woke view is that Key’s third stanza nonetheless discredits the Anthem due to the author’s intent which they cannot prove. That view also discounts the fact that many black people served boldly on the very side of the author in defense of a young democracy, in a world led by monarchs. A democracy of which the woke crowd now enjoys the freedom to criticize.
As is often the case, the woke have chosen to make names for themselves by protesting something for which there is no reason to protest. The impact goes beyond sports, as the world will be watching these games, including our enemies. Recall the meetings in Anchorage back in March, where the China delegation capitalized on the American left’s last four years of America-bashing and the coinciding civil unrest wrought by woke leftist mobs. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and his team were mocked by the China delegation, who used the American left’s own woke talking points against them. Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi boldly proclaimed, “We hope that the United States will do better on human rights. China has made steady progress in human rights. And the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the US itself.”
The embracing of the woke American left by the legacy media and the Biden Administration enabled a delegation from a government currently guilty of REAL and MASSIVE human rights abuses to claim the moral high ground and pimp slap Blinken’s diplomatic team (and our country). Months later, Russian President Vladimir Putin would do the same in a press conference held after his meeting with President Joe Biden. Our enemies can always count on American leftists to help them screw us.
We will have several woke activist-athletes on the US Olympic Team, to include many of those playing on the women’s soccer team, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. They are morally supported by an American president who, according to his press secretary, basically thinks that part of having pride in your country is recognizing that sometimes your country sucks. Yeah, that’s like saying part of having pride in your family is acknowledging that sometimes you help your brother and your crack-smoking, n-word-using son to engage in shameful and criminal misconduct. No wait, Biden has yet to do that. Hey, Joe – that’s not who we are!
Soon, Gwen Berry will again represent her country on a world stage. She gets to do this because Americans of every stripe fought and worked for her right to pursue it. We should also recognize the work and dedication it took for Berry to get to this point. She will march into the Opening Ceremonies with her American teammates. She will enjoy the comforts and comradery of the Olympic Village with white people, people of color and of varying sexual preferences from the United States and around the world. Every one of those athletes hails from a country or culture with slavery or genocide somewhere in their history.
Therein lies the difference. Today’s woke American athletes are “rebels without a clue,” as they enjoy celebrity status, adoration, endorsements, wealth and worldwide exposure. Enjoy it while it lasts because constant on-court and on-field activism is taking a toll. They are losing their fans, and like the useful idiots of Hollywood, they don’t seem to care. Most of us turn to sports to ESCAPE from politics, not to be insulted by pampered, purple-haired, hypocrites who think they’re smarter than us because they can kick a soccer ball. Yet, at some point, in some way, some of those athletes will find a way to inject their social justice statements into the games. They are not there to represent the United States but to embarrass her. Perhaps even on the medal stand, and for what?
They don’t understand how their meaningless, self-serving, on-field protests will only serve the Marxist purpose to divide us. They will take no shame in embarrassing their country on the world stage. These activist-athletes and media types will relish the chance to bask in their wokeness. They have no idea how their actions do a great disservice to a great country, to their sport, and to those who came before them.
I truly hope my predictions are wrong. As a lifelong sports fan who loves to cheer for Team USA, l want to watch and enjoy the Olympics. Not a protest where an Olympiad breaks out