Skip to content Skip to footer

Trump and Pence’s War on Black Athletes Has Nothing to Do With Sports

Mike Pence’s NFL stunt wasn’t about respect or patriotism.

Like his boss Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence is a lazy racist. Trump’s public demands nothing more because they are easily satisfied by the thought of humiliating black and brown people. Last Sunday, Pence spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to fly from Las Vegas to an NFL game in Indiana. His plan? To stage a political stunt where he showed his displeasure towards “uppity” black football players who are protesting police brutality and social injustice in America.

After staying at the football game for several minutes, he left in dramatic fashion. Pence would then announce via the social media platform Twitter that:

I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.

Donald Trump was very pleased. He seconded Pence’s publicity stunt:

I asked VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and SecondLadyKaren.

Of course, Pence is no more than a hypocrite and a lapdog. He claims to be upset about “disrespect” towards America’s soldiers, yet he serves under a man who called Sen. John McCain — who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years, subjected to torture and solitary confinement — a coward and a loser. Pence’s selective outrage is even more obvious (and odious) given that he expressed no anger when Donald Trump insulted Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed while serving with the US Army in Iraq.

Mike Pence directs terms like “dignify” and “disrespect” toward black athletes who are silently expressing their opinions. Yet, like Donald Trump, he does not lash out at the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville (again) last weekend.

It would seem that for Pence and Trump, black athletes who protest discrimination and racism are more troublesome and more dangerous than white supremacists who make terrorist threats and stage violent rallies where unarmed counter-protesters are injured or killed.

It is obvious that Mike Pence’s recent political stunt is part of a larger Trump administration plan: to inflame supporters by ginning up white racial animus towards “disloyal” and “unpatriotic” black and brown Americans. This is the right-wing culture war in miniature. Here, the logic is simple: Since before the founding of America and through to the present, white rage against nonwhites is political fuel that politicians have ignited to win elections and maintain power.

There has been widespread criticism of Trump in the media. But as revealed by recent public opinion data, his white racial resentment strategy is largely working, at least when it comes to the NFL anthem protests.

Why Is This?

In keeping with Trump’s playbook, Pence summoned three important concepts in his rebuke of black and brown NFL players. He said “our soldiers,” “our Flag” and “our National Anthem.” (Neither of the last two is a proper noun, Mr. Vice President.)

Who is the “our”? This signals to a divide between “us” and “them,” which channels a form of racial tribalism where to be a “real American” is first and foremost to be “white.” Pence’s use of “our” is the same as Trump’s use of the phrase “our culture” when he speaks about the need to protect monuments that honor the white supremacist breakaway republic known as the Confederate States of America.