Political protest just keeps spilling into US sport

October 24, 2016
Colin Kaepernick.

From continued ire toward NFL star Colin Kaepernick over his protests against police killings to outrage over a racist mascot and a Los Angeles slugger’s rejection of Trump, sport in the US is fast becoming politicised.

Reflecting a racially-polarised society, tensions have recently broken past the typical barriers and spilled — like a rowdy, drunken fan — onto the playing field of the usually-insulated field of sports.

On October 17, a Toronto court heard arguments that would prohibit the Cleveland Indians baseball team from using their team name and logo in Ontario. The Toronto Blue Jays hosted the Indians that day for the American League Championship Series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team had to find different hotel accommodations for the team’s playoff series against the Chicago Cubs after Mexican-American infielder Adrian Gonzalez refused to stay at the Donald Trump-owned hotel following a regular-season game against the Cubs in May.

And fans of NFL team Buffalo Bills sold T-shirts on October 16 outside Ralph Wilson stadium that depicted a rifle scope aimed at Kaepernick. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has stoked controversy by kneeling in protest against police violence towards people of colour during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.

Bills fans also sold shirts that read “Shut Up and Stand Up! Kaepern-dick,” or “Hey Colin … While You’re Down There”.

In the wake of all this, the still-defiant Kaepernick sported a shirt depicting Muhammad Ali, appearing before the public on October 16.

And many other Bills fans, however, offered Kaepernick their support. Unable to buy game tickets, one group travelled to the stadium and paid for parking just so they could kneel in solidarity with him when the anthem played.

“We’re still Bills fans,” Caitlin Blue, one of the organisers, told USA Today. “We just recognise the NFL uses Black and brown bodies for entertainment, as long as they don’t have opinions.”

In Canada, the legal challenge by indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal coincides with the third game of the Blue Jays series. Cardinal’s lawyers have petitioned the court to bar the usage of the name and logo by the team. Major League Baseball and Rogers Communications own the Blue Jays and the stadium they play in — the Rogers Centre.

The logo, called Chief Wahoo, is a cartoon character with red skin and a feather in his headband. Cardinal’s representatives say team members shouldn’t be allowed to wear their regular jerseys, the logo shouldn’t be broadcast and the team should be referred to as “the Cleveland team.”

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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