(ThyBlackMan.com) Veterans Day has always been an interesting holiday. It sometimes gets mistaken for Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in military service. However, Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, that takes place on November 11th, that celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. Sports and the military are becoming more and more intertwined despite those who want to keep political matters “out of sports”.
The playing of the national anthem before sporting events, particularly the NFL, includes military personnel along with displays of the American flag. The ongoing protests against racial inequality and police brutality during the national anthem are among the social issues that athletes bring up when the protests are discussed. However, it is interesting that the important issue of foreign policy and wars overseas is rarely if ever brought up by athletes today when it was more common in the past.
Although Colin Kaepernick was the main story of athlete protest in 2016 there was another athlete who made a personal decision due to his political views that could be deemed just as “controversial”. Prior to the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, New York Knicks center Joakim Noah made a very bold decision before even playing a regular season game with his new team. Noah chose to skip a Knicks team dinner at the West Point military academy because of his feelings about war. Last year, the Knicks are held a training camp at West Point and were invited to dinner in the mess hall that featured cadets and a speech by a former colonel.
When questioned about his decision to skip the dinner, Noah said, “It’s hard for me a little bit. I have a lot of respect for the kids who are out here fighting. But it’s hard for me to understand why we have to go to war, why kids have to kill kids around the world.” Noah’s background as a man born to a Swedish mother and a French father, while holding American, Swedish and French citizenship means he has a worldly perspective most athletes might not have.
Now retired two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash was fairly outspoken during his playing days during the 2000s about his anti-war beliefs. Nash spoke out publicly against the occupation of Iraq. At the 2003 NBA All-Star game, Nash wore a T-shirt that read, “No War. Shoot for Peace.” He did receive some backlash for his beliefs and responded by saying, “People are mistaking anti-war as being unpatriotic. This has nothing to do with the fact that I’m from Canada. This is a much bigger issue. But now that we’re in battle, I hope for as many lives to be spared as possible, (and) as little violence as possible before a resolution.” Those are strong words from an athlete born in South Africa and raised in Canada.
Perhaps the most famous anti-war athlete of all time is Muhammad Ali. Ali was extremely outspoken against the Vietnam War who declared that he would refuse to serve in the army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector. His anti-war stance led to many losses for Ali including his boxing license being suspended and being stripped of his boxing titles. Other boxing commissions followed suit. Ali would not be able to obtain a license to box in any state for over three years.
Among Ali’s famous quotes is, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me n—–, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.” It is hard to know when the next anti-war athlete will emerge in a country categorized by endless war.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines