Tired of athletes who use their celebrity for narrow political agendas
I am really tired of privileged athletes who use their celebrity as a platform to promote divisiveness, especially when they fuel the flames of racism. Raven Saunders crossing her arms in protest supposedly to support “the oppressed” is truly unprofessional and selfish
By Ray Hanania
It was one thing when two African American athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics raised their fists in protest of the racism that plagued the United States.
That protest came at a time when civil rights and racism were real issues and took place only after the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was truly a terrible time in our country.
But don’t compare the assassination of Dr. King with the accidental killing of George Floyd, or exaggerate the challenges that minorities and the LGBTQ community face today. Society has changed and although racism remains, it isn’t just against African Americans. It impacts everyone. Most White Americans better understand African American history more than ever before. Gay are more accepted, and so are Blacks and other minorities.
Despite the gains against racism, some continue to use it to keep America divided in a narrow and selfish way to promote themselves. Doing it at the Tokyo Olympics as Raven Saunders did this past week is shameful.
Saunders who is African American and openly Gay, came in second place in the ShotPut competition, winning a Silver Media at the Tokyo Olympics. After receiving her award, during the photo-op session, Saunders crossed her arms above her head and later told reporters she did so to show the “intersection” where all people “who are oppressed meet.”
Wow! An Olympic Athlete who beat out thousands of other Americans to be honored to become a member of the American Olympic Team, who has the backing of an entire nation, calls herself “oppressed?”
Saunders is representing the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, on an American team that strives for equality on every level from race to ethnicity to gender. Diversity and equality are among the American Olympic Teams’ primary goals next only to athletic achievements.
That is a success that anyone African America and Gay, or not, should be proud to embrace.
In 2016, the American Team had the largest number of women competing, 292 out of 555 American athletes setting an Olympic record – the Chinese held the record until then with 289 women on their team.
This year, the team consists of 621 athletes who have risen to championship competition because of their individual performance and qualifications. The team is as diverse as any team has ever been with 131 African Americans, the largest racial group next only to Caucasian and far more than Hispanics, Asians and Arabs. Click here for more info.
The team also boasts Gay and LGBTQ members, too, like Saunders. And in the coverage of this year’s competition, much of the national news coverage and attention has focused on several African Americans including Simone Biles, who is the only African American to qualify for the Women’s Gymnastic Team. Despite some personal issues she is overcoming — with the support of the entire nation behind her — Biles has received huge media coverage and praise, showcasing her African American race.
If any ethnic group needs more representation, it is Hispanics, who number only 8 out of the total Team USA. You don’t hear much about them at all.
What about Arab Americans and Muslims who are competing? You don’t hear me complaining, as an Arab American, that they don’t get much coverage and have been excluded. (I really doubt any major American news media would cover me if I stood up with my hands crossed over my head protesting the alleged abuse Arab Americans get as we round the corner to the 20th Anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.)
What about Asians? How come there is no focus on them? What about Native Americans? I s Saunders doing anything to help them? Click here for more information.
For most Americans, the TEAM USA represents America, not just one racial or ethnic group, or one athlete who wants to get herself some cheap and easy national coverage at the expense of American pride.
For Saunders to grab the spotlight crossing her arms above her head to play up the issue of racism and division, is truly selfishly opportunistic.
The American Olympic Team has the backing of every American. White. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Despite its challenges, the United States is the best country in the world when it comes to treating their citizens and even non-citizens. (Does Mexico or any Central American country give free education to their “Dreamers” the way America does?)
America has the best working conditions of any country. We have the best healthcare services of the world’s top 10 nations. Sure we can do better but we strive at it. We have free speech and we don’t get murdered when we speak out against the government. I do it all the time but criticism is a part of the process of public debate, a freedom we enjoy more than any other nation.
Saunders should be more appreciative of the fact that she is representing America at the Olympics, not just one racial or minority group. She is a part of a diverse group of Americans who stand together with the backing of every American across-the-board in Olympic competition.
I am proud of all of the Olympians for what they have achieved, win or lose. I’m not going to favor one group. And I am not going to favor one issue at the expense of the perseverance of the athletes who have worked so hard, trained and sacrificed to get where they are all at today.
I have friends competing in this year’s competition, and while I have been happy to share their stories, I do so in the context of the bigger picture of pride. Pride for all of the athletes and all Americans.
What Saunders did was to undermine that American pride, by playing racial politics in order to exploit the challenges that people of all races face in every country around the world.
It’s disturbing to me when individuals of privilege grab media attention to create a moment that is memorable for them as Saunders has done and puts a cloud above the achievements of the rest.
I support the police and I don’t appreciate the implications of what Saunders has done to attack them, because that is exactly what her message really is about. The movement to defund police and blame all of the violence in some racially dominant communities is purely political and it is extreme.
Like many Americans, I believe that any police officer who commits a crime should be investigated fairly and prosecuted if warranted. If a jury believes they broke the law, then punish them, too. But I am not going to stereotype all police as some activists are doing for selfish reasons of political empowerment and animosity.
Stereotyping all police is no different than stereotyping any group or any minority. Calls to defund the police are really calls to empower criminals and street gangs who end up killing far more innocent victims of race in one year on the streets of Chicago than are killed by all of the police across this country during the past half century.
Instead of fueling that internal division, why doesn’t Saunders do something to heal America and bring it together? Why doesn’t Saunders use her powerful position to show leadership and fight to bring America together instead of ripping it apart?
Where is the athlete who stands up and speaks for ALL AMERICA instead of just for themself?
Where is the athlete who is grateful to America for giving them the opportunity to compete in an international Olympic competition representing the greatest country in the World?
Where is the athlete who stands up with pride, grateful for what they have, and using their privilege earned through national support to give back to America instead of just taking away?
Raven Saunders had an opportunity to do something good. She certainly has a talent when it comes to throwing the “shot,” the heavy metal ball. The record throw is 78 feet and 8 ¼ inches.
What she did instead was to grab the spotlight and, using controversy, stirred up the pot to fuel not diminish racial tensions in America.
If there is a Gold Medal competition for being a selfish opportunist, she certainly is in the running.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. This column was originally as a special SUBSCRIBER ONLY COLUMN. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Click here to view The Ray Hanania on Politics podcast.
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