Let's make politics 'out of bounds' in Sunday sports

Let's make politics 'out of bounds' in Sunday sports
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When the referees in charge of NFL football games make questionable calls, a challenge can be issued, subjecting the decisions to closer review. The choice by President Trump to attack a group of our nation’s top professional athletes deserves that same treatment.

Upon closer review, I cannot help but conclude that the president’s rhetoric and his comments on social media related to athletes choosing to exercise their rights to protest were both ill-timed and ill-considered.

Ours is a nation continuing to look for ways to bridge the racial rifts that opened up over Charlottesville and other events. On the political side, we are a nation increasingly divided by socioeconomic and party lines. We see this manifesting in a Congress that is at times unwilling and at other points unable, to compromise and collaborate in a bipartisan fashion to solve our nation’s most vexing problems.


I praised President Trump in a recent column for his overture to Democrats in Congress to finally address and fix the immigration mess that he inherited from his predecessor in the White House. As someone who wants to see Trump’s agenda succeed, I am frustrated by the self-inflicted controversy and distraction that he continues to foment.


Are the NFL football players and the other athletes whom the president has scorned perfect? No. But they are people with their own opinions, unique personal histories and perspectives. Most importantly, they are Americans who live in a free nation where every one of us who lives here should feel empowered to express ourselves in the manner in which we see fit.

Many of the players who had chosen to carry out their own personal and peaceful protests are among the 70 percent of African American players who comprise the league, and many are active in their own communities and doing what they can to help inspire, support and lift up others.

Kneeling during the national anthem as a way to call attention to perceived injustice is not something that I would ever choose to do or condone. I agree with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who said, “I do not think the place to express yourself in society is as we recognize the American flag.” 

Yet as an American, I champion the right of others to do just that. If the president wants to disagree with their actions then that is certainly his prerogative. But he should never have chosen to do so with such coarse language, which is not only unpresidential, but also totally uncalled for. 

While we may disagree with our fellow countrymen, it’s inappropriate to resort to crass name-calling and vulgarities. 

So what has been the result of the president’s needless fixation on the sports world in recent days? He has created division and anger within the country while doing what previously seemed impossible: bringing together the NFL’s executives, owners, unions, coaches and players in solidarity against him.

I believe that Trump has the capacity and the desire to bring out critical changes for the betterment of our country, but he keeps getting in the way of that. He is also making it harder for those who support his agenda to defend his unpredictable and unproductive actions.

I am heartened by the fact that Dr. Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonDemocrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans Trump HUD official: 'I don't care if I'm not supposed to be tweeting during the shutdown' Top Trump official resigned over White House plan to withhold disaster-relief funds from Puerto Rico: report MORE, whom I count among my closest friends and for whom I have worked as his business manager for many years, continues to believe in Trump and his mission. For me, it means something that Dr. Carson has strong and steadfast faith in the president and his ability to lead. 

Yet, for millions of Americans, it is becoming increasingly harder to promote and defend some of the distractions whipped up by our commander in chief. There are serious challenges confronting our nation that need steady leadership and resolve.

North Korea continues to threaten us with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear tests in bald defiance of the global community. The president will soon decide on how to proceed with the deeply flawed Iran nuclear deal. The economy, which has surged since Trump took office, still has a long way to go to reach the levels of growth and prosperity that will put America back on top.

In America today there are two arenas which I would like to see returned to as safe zones: houses of worship and sports. For the faithful all across the United States, prayer time with loved ones and community are a source of inspiration and spiritual connection. Instead of zeroing in on the vagaries of man, we should be able to focus on our Creator.

Sports is another important key pillar of our society where men, women and children can go to be entertained, inspired and brought together. Perhaps the president and the players can find common ground by agreeing that on Sunday of all days, in church and as we celebrate sports, the American people should be able to enjoy them with politics and partisanship called out of bounds.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is author of the brand new book, "Reawakening Virtues." He served as an adviser and spokesman for Dr. Ben Carson's 2016 presidential campaign, and is on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern.