Dave Zirin

At the first preseason NFL games on August 9, players continued to protest racial inequity and police violence by kneeling or raising a fist during the US national anthem, writes Dave Zirin.

The Fare Network (Football Against Racism in Europe) is an organisation that tracks racism and homophobia in the football (soccer) world. For the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they set up a series of “diversity houses” for the LGBTQI community and people of colour.

Now in St Petersburg, they have been evicted from the building they were leasing for these safe spaces. Other tenants are also reportedly under instruction not to offer subleases, leaving only the brutal symbolism of a diversity house shuttered.

Radical US sports writer Dave Zirin asks why a major multinational corporation is sponsoring football (soccer) teams in illegal Israeli settlements.

There has been a flurry of articles recently proclaiming that NFL player protests against racism and police brutality were winding down and entering a new stage: what a spokesperson for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had branded moving “from protest to progress”.

Then along came Bob McNair.

United States President Donald Trump has tried to focus the nation’s ire on anti-racist Black athletes. He tried to demonise them on the highest possible stage, calling for them to lose their jobs.

His transparent aim was to find a bogeyman to distract people from a cascade of scandal and failed legislation, and his administration’s disastrous response to the suffering in Puerto Rico.

Well, the results of this idiotic effort are in.

A rally gathered in front of the NFL’s Park Avenue Headquarters in New York on August 23. A host of civil-rights organisations protested the exile-status of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick — the star quarterback formerly of the San Francisco 49ers who caused waves by taking to his knee during the US national anthem as an anti-racist protest.

There was no indication that Kaepernick is connected to the rally, but his endorsement is irrelevant: The issue has become something far bigger than the makeup of an NFL roster.

Donald Trump’s immigration policies — and the marching orders he has given to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) — are destroying lives. When this hits home, it gets very real, very quickly.

It is a reality that recently smacked the members of the elite Bethesda Soccer Club right between the eyes: Their teammate and friend Lizandro Claros Saravia was detained by ICE, along with his older brother Diego. Both were then deported.

My bias is real. When it comes to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, they have never been just athletes to me, but people. I have felt an imperative to defend them against detractors, know-nothings and dime-store bigots.

The reasons are obvious: they were once two Black teenagers from the public courts of Compton, treated with contempt — of both a race and class variety — by their sport. They not only survived but thrived.

It is a remarkable — and remarkably unexpected — thing to write, but female athletes are now leading both the United States’ labour movement and the women’s movement for pay equity.

The situation for Palestinian and Arab football (soccer) players in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has, for some time, been dire.

On one side of Israel’s Apartheid Wall, within the formal borders of Israel, segregated youth teams, racist abuse, and heckling — including charming chants such as “Death to the Arabs” — are frequent. On the other, in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, checkpoint detention, jailings, and the bombing of stadiums have become regular features of what is supposed to be the people’s game.

Given the powerful role that football plays as a point of community cohesion in the West Bank and Gaza, this everyday violence feels like a full-frontal attack on civil society, normalcy and hope.

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