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Allon: The Patriots aren’t just an NFL team — they’re its kneeling players

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If you ever doubted the importance of professional sports in the American imagination, this weekend’s events are a stark reminder that it is more powerful than ever.

All weekend long, professional athletes exercised their First Amendment rights — and punched back at a wildly swinging president who questioned their patriotism — by kneeling and locked or staying in the locker room during the national anthem. And some league champions refusing to celebrated at the White House.

Watching football games on Sunday reminded me of the rallies from the 1960s when conscientious objectors burned their draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War.

It is amazing to witness the civil war manufactured by a President who really should be more focused on avoiding war with North Korea and figuring out how his dysfunctional party will ever get any of his agenda passed in Congress.

The NBA even got into the presidential scrum when superstars Stephen Curry and Lebron James dissed the Potus. The King from Cleveland landed the most piercing blow when he replied to the President’s tweet about what an honor it is for championship teams to be invited to the White House.

“It was [an honor] until you became President,” wrote King James.

Ouch.

Hard to know where this dust-up leads, but it sure is fun to watch athletes and football team owners kick back against the foolish tirade by Trump.

This weekend, a film opened that also reminds us of the power of sports — “The Battle of the Sexes,” a great tale from 1973.

The film chronicles the early career of women’s tennis great Billie Jean King and her fight for equal rights for women in sport. It is an inspiring and encouraging tale. King was unwilling to let the male dominated U.S. Tennis Association pay women champions less than one eighth of what men received.

King led a renegade group of women’s tennis players in forming a new league — the Women’s Tennis Association — so that they could try to achieve pay parity. They succeeded when a tobacco company funded the Virginia Slims women’s tour.

But even more dramatically, King soundly defeated a male chauvinist hustler named Bobby Riggs in the much-hyped “Battle of the Sexes.” Her win proved that women tennis players can, indeed, beat male tennis players and did more to advance the cause of women’s rights than our slow moving government ever did.

King was a leading feminist and also became one of the first openly gay high-profile athletes and her barrier-breaking there was also a huge leap in American consciousness of gay rights.

Athletes are given a huge platform in our celebrity-loving society and it is great to see them use their status to expose the remaining injustices in our society.

Tom Allon is the president of City & State.Reach him at tallon@cityandstateny.com.

Updated 4:36 pm, September 28, 2017
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Reader feedback

Jon says:
Did Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis and John Rocker have a right to speak their minds? All were either fired or had their careers ruined for speaking their minds in a politically incorrect way. Please do a search of these people if you don't know who they are and educate people. If you are politically incorrect, you lose your job.
Sept. 29, 2017, 11:32 pm
ALEX from B'KLYN says:
WHY BURGESS OWEN IS A REAL HERO, AND TOM ALLON is NOT!

I hope, Tom, you'll read this:
People is coming to the stadiums to enjoy the games, that's all! Those players made their millions, because of those games - it's their only JOB!
But SHAME ON YOU and your waste of time pathetic article!

So why do I STAND?
Burgess Owens said it best: "As a former NFL player, I am one American who will have nothing to do with any NFL Team that cannot find the corporate courage to stand for the millions of courageous past great Americans whose sacrifice gave meaning to our flag and national anthem and to the millions upon millions who still dream to come to its free shores"...

So why do I STAND?
I STAND - in gratitude to an eight-year-old boy, my great-great grandfather, who remained hopeful, tenacious and faithful as he grew to proudly serve his family, community and country.

I STAND - in gratitude to a grandfather whom at the age of 15 years old, volunteered to serve in WWI. As a successful farmer, he raised 12 children who would all earn college degrees and taste of the mid-1900’s American dream.

I STAND - in gratitude to a father who succeeded in the day of institutional racism in the arenas of academia, as a researcher, an entrepreneur, a dedicated father and husband and a pillar of his community. He once recounted that his greatest life decision was volunteering and returning home as a proud WWII veteran.

I STAND – in gratitude for the proud, successful, entrepreneurial and segregated Tallahassee, Florida, community where I grew up. The people of that community were determined that they would never be looked down upon or pitied as a race of victims.

I STAND - as an example for the millions of black youth who have not been taught to love God, country, family and themselves by the liberal Leftist overseers who have controlled the urban community for the last 60 years.

I STAND - against the sanitizing of our history. The Left has already done so within the black community, resulting in the lack of gratitude seen on today’s NFL sidelines.

I STAND - as a voice to the NFL corporation leadership…it’s time to STAND UP, MAN-UP AND DEFEND OUR COUNTRY AND CULTURE.
This will only occur when patriotism is valued over popularity, profit and politics."...

Burgess Owens
Oct. 3, 2017, 12:40 am
Jack says:
Would you support athletes who profess conservative views and their free speech rights Tom? What if a sports league didn't want to stand for the flag because of legalized abortion in this country? I would love to see you defend that.
Oct. 3, 2017, 3:36 pm
ALEX from B'KLYN says:
Jack, you're wasting your time, you'll be waiting for
CHICKEN TOM to defend it, till the next Century!
Oct. 3, 2017, 7:42 pm

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