Protect our athletes’ right to protest

If you haven’t heard of her by now, Tomi Lahren is a television commentator known to vehemently advocate for controversial, i.e. racist, conservative values and policies. She got a lot of notoriety for her attack on Colin Kaepernick and since then has become a symbol for neoconservatism among millennials.

Needless to say, she supports president-elect Donald Trump, and spent most of the campaign minimizing his controversies, such as the tapes in which he boasted about sexually assaulting women. What is particularly concerning about her and other rape apologists and racism deniers is that, before the election, they were operating under the possibility of Trump’s election. But now that he has won, they are taking victory laps. They are empowered.

We’re tired of hearing about Trump, Lahren and Kaepernick, I know. But stay with me.

The point I want to make is that social protesting in sports is going to be all the more important now that Trump has been elected. Lahren has made her career for her racially insensitive attack on Kaepernick, in which she called him a “cry baby” and urged him to “leave the country.” Regardless of political stances, this sort of rhetoric is unacceptable, particularly because the right to protest is protected by the Constitution. Her cognitive dissonance, claiming that protest is something un-American without recognizing that it is fundamentally American, is concerning. Further, what about black Americans protesting white supremacy is so threatening to her and other conservatives?

The next four years are going to be characterized by neoconservatives like Lahren attempting to shut down athletes like Kaepernick, as well as peaceful protesters outside of the sports realm. But even if we don’t agree with what Kaepernick is doing—and if you don’t, I encourage you to really ask yourself why—we must protect the constitutional right to protest, which I think, is under attack.

Peaceful protesting, always important, now carries a certain sense of urgency. Not only as a fundamental, American right, but because of what protesters are protesting. We now see how far white supremacist rhetoric can carry someone: all the way into the White House. And we see how far attacking black athletes for protesting can take someone. A week after Trump’s election—an election characterized by racist controversy—the value of protest has been continually diminished. Diminished even by white liberals who, before the election, so passionately opposed Trump.

Let’s not turn our backs on protesters now, and on athletes such as Kaepernick who were brave enough to engage in such a public sign of protest such as kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner on national television.

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