Carroll County Times
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Bird Brown: Protesting protests

Before my senior year in high school, one of my closest friends was shipped off to a boarding school by his parents in an attempt to better prepare him for the college application process.


His brother had earned a scholarship to Johns Hopkins for academics and lacrosse and let’s just say my friend didn’t have the athletic ability his brother had that could help offset any academic deficiencies so his parents thought a year in the boarding school would suit him just fine.

He was not a big fan of the move, especially missing out on the many traditional Senior events that we had at Westminster High School and I wasn’t really happy that they sent my friend away. We stayed friends throughout the year so I was very excited when Mercersburg Academy came to Westminster that spring to play a lacrosse game and we could play against one another at least.


That was when I realized the platform that athletes have to make their point or deliver the message. In my own form of “silent” protest, I painted my face with references to his mother and to our opponent. Because it was covered by my helmet nobody really saw what I had painted that day, but it sure made me feel good.

Last year a US Women's National Soccer Team Prospect, 25-year-old Jaelene Hinkle, refused the “call up” to the national team in June because it was “Pride Month” and the national soccer teams were wearing jerseys with numbers in rainbow colors. She attributed turning down the spot to her religious beliefs against gay marriage.

Those that follow the game understand that the USWNT has a strong following in the LGBGT community and a relationship with its fans as good as any US sports team. The cries went out immediately for her removal from the player pool because of her “homophobic” views. Although she received another call up recently for the upcoming friendlies, she was cut after only two days.

Granted, she could have had a terrible two-day tryout that caused her to be sent back, but immediate speculation formed that she was cut due to her unwillingness to wear the rainbow numbered jersey, clearly the consequences of her personal decision a year earlier. According to many in the soccer world she is one of, if not the best, left back in the country so certainly it couldn’t have been her talent that kept her out, right? Sound familiar?

Hinkle is not the first and definitely will not be the last person to use their platform they’ve earned in sports to make a personal statement or bring attention to social injustices. Long before Colin Kaepernick took his knee, athletes have been using their positions in the public’s eye to further their cause.

My first recollection of sports protests was the 1968 Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to symbolize Black Power. Around that same time one of my favorite athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali, declined to join the army and was arrested and convicted of draft evasion which was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Shawn Green, a devout Jew who played for the Blue Jays, Mets, and Dodgers, refused to play in games that were scheduled on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, despite his team’s need for his services with his bat and in right field.

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When President Jimmy Carter led not only the US but 62 other countries in boycotting the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, it was not only one of his least favorite decisions of his presidency, but also shattered the hopes and dreams of thousands of athletes who had worked for their entire lives to prepare for those particular Olympic Games.


At least in all of the other examples, the athletes made a conscious decision for themselves.

I am a firm believer in, and strong supporter of, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and the protections it provides to citizens of the United States. I support each and every one of their decisions to use their platforms to bring attention to those causes they hold near and dear to their hearts.

But to be honest with you, I’m about done with all this. I look to things like movies, sports and television for recreation and entertainment, not to have each and every cause, all of them very worthy to those people that are affected, shoved down my throat.

I just want to watch some football. Catch the women’s national team in an international friendly. So, instead of being convinced of your cause, I’m switching the channel. I don’t know what the right answer is to this situation, just that I personally am losing interest.

As Yogi Berra said, “I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of answering that question.”

I don’t think there is a good answer.