ANTHEM PROTESTS TARGETED U.S. STATE | ATHLETES REFUSING TO BE SILENT
In an interview on Fox & Friends that aired today, Trump praised a newly-adopted NFL policy banning kneeling during the anthem, saying of the athletes that “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem. “I think that’s good,” Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
We are publishing a commentary by Voice of Revolution published in October 2017 on the question.
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Comments by U.S. President Trump targeting athletes taking a knee and refusing to stand for the U.S. anthem have been widely reported. However, there has been little discussion on the significance of his remarks being a demand for loyalty, not only from athletes but from the public in general. This same demand was reflected in his speech at the UN to countries and peoples internationally. The essence of his remarks were for all to “respect our flag,” that is U.S. empire, or be punished. For the players he calls for them getting fired, for those internationally far greater violence is threatened, including “totally destroying,” the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In general, he has been expressing the demand of the U.S. state that it will decide who is and is not loyal, or a threat, and will act to use punishment and force with impunity.
In his comments to athletes, Trump specifically targeted African Americans, who make up 70 per cent of the players in the National Football League (NFL). And while the comments were directed at athletes, it is also the case that African Americans are known as one of the most militant sections of the U.S. working class. In this manner Trump is using athletes, highly public figures, to test the waters more broadly of the readiness of the public to submit to the demand for loyalty to the flag and the U.S. state it represents. There is to be no opposition to the broad and persistent racism, brutality and violence of the state. There is to be loyalty to wholesale impunity at all levels, or punishment and use of force.
The crisis of the U.S. state is such that even the appearance of a government of laws has been abandoned as a government of police powers is consolidated. It is a government without regard for rule of law or legitimacy, but rather one of arbitrary actions and violence, at home and abroad.
Trump’s demand to be loyal was recognized by some of the athletes. Chris Conley, of the Kansas City Chiefs expressed it in this manner “‘Stick to sports boy… Sit down and do what you’re told. Say or do something we don’t like and your fired’ Well I hate to break it to ya…” This refusal to be silent also was reflected in numerous comments. Michael Thomas, of the New Orleans Saints said, “Continue to use your voices and your platforms for racial equality and to stop injustices in our communities. This is bigger than us!!!” And the broadening of the protest to include many other athletes and millions who expressed their support in various ways, is a further indication that the people do not accept impunity and inequality and more generally are rejecting the direction the country is headed in.
It can be anticipated that Trump, as representative of the U.S. state, will continue to demand loyalty and will also unleash increasing violence, at home and abroad. Existing conditions are demanding that people continue to stand up for justice and in doing so, organize for a new direction for political affairs. The old U.S.-style democracy, with its anthem and Constitution enshrining enslavement, has no place. Replicating the old will not solve the problem of inequality and a government no longer fit to govern. A new democracy of our own making, where the people are empowered to govern and decide is needed and organizing in that direction is critical.
Voice of Revolution, publication of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization, October 10, 2017