What Arthur Ashe Knew About Protest

The tennis great was committed to respectful dialogue, refusing to lower himself to the level of invective

Raymond Arsenault
Mr. Arsenault is a biographer of Arthur Ashe.
The New York Times
Sept. 8, 2018

Arthur Ashe always had an exquisite sense of timing, whether he was striking a topspin backhand or choosing when to speak out for liberty and justice for all. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the 50th anniversary of his victory at the first U.S. Open — a milestone to be celebrated on Saturday at the grand stadium bearing his name — coincides with a national conversation on the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of professional athletes.

Mr. Ashe has been gone for 25 years, struck down at the age of 49 by AIDS, inflicted by an H.I.V.-tainted blood transfusion. But the example he set as a champion on and off the court has never been more relevant. As Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and others strive to use their athletic stardom as a platform for social justice activism, they might want to look back at what this soft-spoken African-American tennis star accomplished during the age of Jim Crow and apartheid.

The first thing they will discover is that, like most politically motivated athletes, Mr. Ashe turned to activism only after his formative years as an emerging sports celebrity. He began his career as the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis — a vulnerable and insecure racial pioneer instructed by his coaches to hold his tongue during a period when the success of desegregation was still in doubt. At the same time, Mr. Ashe’s natural shyness and deferential attitude toward his elders and other authority figures all but precluded involvement in the civil rights struggle and other political activities during his high school and college years.

The calculus of risk and responsibility soon changed, however, as Mr. Ashe reinvented himself as a 25-year-old activist-in-training during the tumultuous year of 1968. With his stunning victory in September at the U.S. Open, where he overcame the best pros in the world as a fifth-seeded amateur, he gained a new confidence that affected all aspects of his life.

Mr. Ashe’s political transformation had begun six months earlier when he gave his first public speech, a discourse on the potential importance of black athletes as community leaders, delivered at a Washington forum hosted by the Rev. Jefferson Rogers, a prominent black civil rights leader Mr. Ashe had known since childhood. Mr. Rogers had been urging Mr. Ashe to speak out on civil rights issues for some time, and when he finally did so, it released a spirit of civic engagement that enveloped his life. “This is the new Arthur Ashe,” the reporter Neil Amdur observed in this paper, “articulate, mature, no longer content to sit back and let his tennis racket do the talking.”

In part, Mr. Ashe’s new attitude reflected a determination to make amends for his earlier inaction. “There were times, in fact,” he recalled years later, “when I felt a burning sense of shame that I was not with other blacks — and whites — standing up to the fire hoses and the police dogs, the truncheons, bullets and bombs.” He added: “As my fame increased, so did my anguish.”

During the violent spring of 1968, the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Mr. Ashe had come to admire above all other black leaders, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whom he had supported as a presidential candidate, shook Mr. Ashe’s faith in America. But he refused to surrender to disillusionment. Instead he dedicated himself to active citizenship on a level rarely seen in the world of sports.

His activism began with an effort to expand economic and educational opportunities for young urban blacks, but his primary focus soon turned to the liberation of black South Africans suffering under apartheid. Later he supported a wide variety of causes, playing an active role in campaigns for black political power, high educational standards for college athletes, criminal justice reform, equality of the sexes and AIDS awareness. He also became involved in numerous philanthropic enterprises.

By the end of his life, Mr. Ashe’s success on the court was no longer the primary source of his celebrity. He had become, along with Muhammad Ali, a prime example of an athlete who transcended the world of sports. In 2016, President Barack Obama identified Mr. Ali and Mr. Ashe as the sports figures he admired above all others. While noting the sharp contrast in their personalities, he argued that both men were “transformational” activists who pushed the nation down the same path to freedom and democracy.

Mr. Ashe practiced his own distinctive brand of activism, one based on unemotional appeals to common sense and enlightened philosophical principles as simple as the Golden Rule. He had no facility for, and little interest in, using agitation and drama to draw attention to causes, no matter how worthy they might be. A champion of civility, he always kept his cool and never raised his voice in anger or frustration. Viewing emotional appeals as self-defeating and even dangerous, he relied on reasoned persuasion derived from careful preparation and research.

Mr. Ashe preferred to make a case in written form, or as a speaker on the college lecture circuit or as a witness before the United Nations. His periodic opinion pieces in The Washington Post and other newspapers tackled a number of thorny issues related to sports and the broader society, including upholding high academic standards for college athletic eligibility and the expulsion of South Africa from international athletic competition. In the 1980s, he devoted several years to researching and writing “A Hard Road to Glory,” a groundbreaking three-volume history of African-American athletes.

In retirement Mr. Ashe became a popular tennis broadcaster known for his clever quips, yet as an activist he never resorted to sound bites that excited audiences with reductionist slogans. Often working behind the scenes, he engaged in high-profile public debate only when he felt there was no other way to advance his point of view. Suspicious of quick fixes, he advocated incremental and gradual change as the best guarantor of true progress.

Yet he did not let this commitment to long-term solutions interfere with his determination to give voice to the voiceless. Known as a risk taker on the court, he was no less bold off the court, where he never shied away from speaking truth to power.

He was arrested twice, in 1985 while participating in an anti-apartheid demonstration in front of the South African Embassy and in 1992 while picketing the White House in protest of the George H.W. Bush administration’s discriminatory policies toward Haitian refugees. The first arrest embarrassed the American tennis establishment, which soon removed him from his position as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and the second occurred during the final months of his life as he struggled with the ravages of AIDS. In both cases he accepted the consequences of his principled activism with dignity.

Mr. Ashe was a class act in every way, a man who practiced what he preached without being diverted by the temptations of power, fame or fortune. When we place his approach to dissent and public debate in a contemporary frame, it becomes obvious that his legacy is the antithesis of the scorched-earth politics of Trumpism. If Mr. Ashe were alive today, he would no doubt be appalled by the bullying tactics and insulting rhetoric of a president determined to punish athletes who have the courage and audacity to speak out against police brutality toward African-Americans. And yet we can be equally sure that Mr. Ashe would honor his commitment to respectful dialogue, refusing to lower himself to the president’s level of unrestrained invective.

Not all of the activist athletes involved in public protests during the past two years have followed Mr. Ashe’s model of restraint and civility. But many have made a good-faith effort to do so, resisting the temptation to respond in kind to Mr. Trump’s intemperate attacks on their personal integrity and patriotism. In particular, several of the most visible activists — including Mr. Kaepernick, Stephen Curry and Mr. James — have kept their composure and dignity even as they have borne the brunt of Mr. Trump’s racially charged Twitter storms and stump speeches. By and large, they have wisely taken the same high road that Mr. Ashe took two generations ago, eschewing the politics of character assassination while keeping their eyes on the prize.

Mr. Ashe would surely be gratified that to date, this high road has led to more protest, not less, confirming his belief that real change comes from rational advocacy and hard work, not emotional self-indulgence. As we celebrate his remarkable life and legacy a quarter-century after his death, we can be confident that Mr. Ashe would rush to join today’s activists in spirit and solidarity, solemnly but firmly taking a knee for social justice.

Raymond Arsenault is the author of “Arthur Ashe: A Life.”

Voir aussi:

Arthur Ashe’s real legacy was his activism, not his tennis
We remember Ashe for his electrifying talent. But he had a social conscience that was way ahead of its time
Raymond Arsenault
The Guardian
9 Sep 2018

No one had expected a fifth-seeded, 25-year-old amateur on temporary leave from the army to come out on top in a field that included the world’s best pro players. The era of Open tennis, in which both amateurs and professionals competed, was only four months old. Many feared that mixing the two groups was a mistake. Yet Ashe, with help from a string of upsets that eliminated the top four seeds, defeated the Dutchman Tom Okker in the championship match – in the process becoming the first black man to reach the highest echelon of amateur tennis.

As an amateur, Ashe could not accept the champion’s prize money of $14,000. But the lost income proved inconsequential in light of the other benefits that came in the wake of his historic performance. He became not only as a bona fide sports star but also a citizen activist with important things to contribute to society and a platform to do so. Ashe began to speak out on questions of social and economic justice.

Earlier in the year, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had shocked Ashe out of his youthful reticence to become involved in the struggle for civil rights. Over the next 25 years, he worked tirelessly as an advocate for civil and human rights, a role model for athletes interested in more than fame and fortune.

“From what we get, we can make a living,” he counseled. “What we give, however, makes a life.”

Ashe’s 1968 win was truly impressive but his finest moment at the Open came, arguably, in 1992, four and a half months after the public disclosure that he had Aids and nearly a decade after he contracted HIV during a blood transfusion. If we apply Ashe’s professed standard of success, which placed social and political reform well above athletic achievement, the 25th US Open, not the first, is the tournament most deserving of commemoration. Without picking up a racket, he managed to demonstrate a moral leadership that far transcended the world of sports.

On 30 August, on the eve of the first round, a substantial portion of the professional tennis community rallied behind the stricken champion’s effort to raise funds for the new Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of Aids (AAFDA). The celebrity-studded event, the Arthur Ashe Aids Tennis Challenge, drew a huge crowd and nine of the game’s biggest stars. The support was unprecedented, leading one reporter to marvel: “The tennis world is known by and large as a selfish, privileged world, one crammed with factions and egos. So what is happening at the Open is unthinkable: gender and nationality and politics will take a back seat to a full-fledged effort to support Ashe.”

Participants included CBS correspondent Mike Wallace, then New York City mayor David Dinkins and two of tennis’s biggest celebrities, the up-and-coming star Andre Agassi and the four-time Open champion John McEnroe, who entertained the crowd by clowning their way through a long set. To Ashe’s delight, McEnroe, once known as the “Superbrat” of tennis, even put on a joke tantrum against the umpire.

Several days earlier, on a more serious note, McEnroe had spoken for many of his peers in explaining why he felt passionate about Ashe’s cause.

“It’s not something you can even think twice about when you’re asked to help,” he insisted. “The fact that the disease has happened to a tennis player certainly strikes home with all of us. I’m just glad someone finally organized the tennis community like this, and obviously it took someone like Arthur to do it.”

Ashe was thrilled with the response to the Aids Challenge, which raised $114,000 for the AAFDA. One man walked up and casually handed him a personal check for $25,000. Later in the week the foundation received $30,000 from an anonymous donor in North Carolina. Such generosity was what Ashe had hoped to inspire, and when virtually all of the US Open players complied with the foundation’s request to attach a special patch – “a red ribbon centered by a tiny yellow tennis ball” – to their outfits as a symbolic show of support for Aids victims, he knew he had started something important.

This awakening of social responsibility – among a group of athletes not typically known for political courage – was deeply gratifying to a man whose previous calls to action had been largely ignored. Seven years earlier he was fired as captain of the US Davis Cup team in part because leaders were uncomfortable with his growing political activism, especially his arrest during an anti-apartheid demonstration outside a South African embassy. This rebuke did not shake his belief in active citizenship as a bedrock principle, however, and as the 1992 Open drew to a close he demonstrated just how seriously he regarded personal commitment to social justice.

When his lifelong friend and anti-apartheid ally Randall Robinson asked Ashe to come to Washington for a protest march he immediately said yes, even though the march was scheduled four days before the end of the Open. The march concerned an issue that had become deeply important to Ashe: the Bush administration’s discriminatory treatment of Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the US. With more than 2,000 other protesters, Ashe gathered in front of the White House to seek justice for the growing mass of Haitian “boat people” being forcibly repatriated without a hearing.

In stark contrast to the warm reception accorded Cuban refugees fleeing Castro’s communist regime, the dark-skinned boat people were denied refuge due to a blanket ruling that Haitians, unlike Cubans, were economic migrants undeserving of political asylum. To Ashe and the organizers of the White House protest, this double standard – which flew in the face of the political realities of both islands – smacked of racism.

“The argument incensed me,” Ashe wrote. “Undoubtedly, many of the people picked up were economic refugees, but many were not.”

Ashe knew a great deal about Haiti: he had read widely and deeply about the island’s troubled past; he had visited on several occasions; he and his wife had even honeymooned there in 1977. More recently, he had monitored the truncated career of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a self-styled champion of the poor whose regime was toppled by a military coup with the tacit support of the Bush administration. Ashe felt compelled to speak out.

“I was prepared to be arrested to protest this injustice,” he said.

Considering his medical condition, he had no business being at a protest; certainly no one would have blamed him if he had begged off. No one, that is, but himself. At the appointed hour, he arrived at the protest site in jeans, T-shirt and straw hat, a human scarecrow reduced to 128lbs on his 6ft 1in frame, but resolute as ever. Big, bold letters on his shirt read: “Haitians Locked Out Because They’re Black.”

The throng included a handful of celebrities, but Ashe alone represented the sports world. He didn’t want to be treated as a celebrity, of course; he simply wanted to make a statement about the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. While he knew his presence was largely symbolic, he hoped to set an example.

Putting oneself at risk for a good cause, he assured one reporter, “does wonders for your outlook … Marching in a protest is a liberating experience. It’s cathartic. It’s one of the great moments you can have in your life.”

Since federal law prohibited large demonstrations close to the White House, the organizers expected arrests. The police did not disappoint: nearly 100 demonstrators, including Ashe, were arrested, handcuffed and carted away. Ashe, despite his physical condition, asked for and received no favors. After paying his fine and calling his wife Jeanne to assure her he was all right, he took the late afternoon train back to New York.

The next night, while sitting on his couch watching the nightly news, he felt a sharp pain in his sternum. Tests revealed he had suffered a mild heart attack, the second of his life. Prior to the trip to Washington, Jeanne had worried something like this might happen. But she knew her husband was never one to play it safe when something important was on the line.

On the tennis court, he had always been prone to fits of reckless play, going for broke with shots that defied logic or sense. Off the court, particularly in his later years, Arthur Ashe almost always went full-out. He did so not because he craved activity for its own sake but rather because he wanted to live a virtuous and productive life. Even near the end, weakened by disease, he still wanted to make a difference. And he did, as he always did.

      • Raymond Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin professor of southern history at the University of South Florida, St Petersburg, is the author of Arthur Ashe: A Life, recently published by Simon & Schuster

    Voir également:

    ‘Arthur was always different’: Reflecting on Ashe’s legacy, 50 years after U.S. Open win
    Ava Wallace
    The Washington Post
    September 3, 2018

    Virginia Wade has many memories of Arthur Ashe, but the one that sticks in her mind isn’t from 50 years ago in New York, when in 1968 they won the first U.S. Open singles titles and Ashe became the first African American man to win a Grand Slam championship. Her favorite memory is from seven years later at Wimbledon.

    Ashe claimed the last of his three major titles in England in 1975 in a match against heavy favorite Jimmy Connors. Wade remembers cool, unruffled Ashe’s daring tennis against the 22-year-old Connors, who hollered back at the crowd when it shouted encouragement. She also remembers the changeovers.

    “It was an incredible match. I mean, Arthur was an innovator,” Wade, 73, said last week. “It was the first time he sort of sat down at the side of the court in between — they didn’t have chairs at the side of the court for a long time; we sort of had to towel off and go on — but he would sit and cover his head with the towel and just think. It was the first time you were conscious of the mental side of tennis. Arthur was instrumental in that. . . . Arthur was a thinker.”

    As the U.S. Open celebrates its 50th anniversary, the U.S. Tennis Association is also honoring Ashe for all that he was: thinker, pioneer, activist, champion.

    The 1968 winner already has a significant presence at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — the facility’s biggest and most prestigious stage is named for him — but this fortnight, his visage is inescapable. There is a special photo exhibit on the walkway between Court 17 and the Grandstand, and a special “Arthur Ashe legacy booth” decked out in the colors of UCLA, his alma mater. Fans can be seen walking around sporting white T-shirts featuring a picture of Ashe wearing sunglasses, cool as can be.

    At the start of Monday’s evening session, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams gave Ashe’s younger brother Johnnie a folded American flag in honor of his brother, who died in 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia after contracting the disease from a tainted blood transfusion. Ashe was an Army lieutenant when he won the U.S. Open as an amateur in 1968; Johnnie, 70, was in the Marine Corps for 20 years.

    Johnnie Ashe, like Wade, remembers his brother as an intellectual and an innovator, as someone who was meant to change the world. That’s why, when Johnnie came to understand that the military wouldn’t send two brothers into active duty in a war zone at the same time, he volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam. He was three months away from coming home.

    “Arthur didn’t need Vietnam. Arthur had his own Vietnam right there in the United States in those days, and some of the things that I saw while I was there — he didn’t need that,” Johnnie said Monday night. “The thing that I always think about, and this was always the most important thing in my mind, was that Arthur represented so many possibilities. Arthur was the first to do so much so often that those of us who knew him would say: ‘What’s next? What mountain was he going to climb next?’ Arthur was always different.”

    Since Johnnie stayed on active duty, Arthur could compete for both the U.S. amateur and U.S. Open championships in 1968. He is the only person to have won both.

    Ashe had many projects that helped extend his legacy beyond that of a pioneering tennis player who won 33 career singles championships; ever the thinker, bringing tennis and educational opportunities to youths was Ashe’s passion. He helped found the National Junior Tennis & Learning network in 1968, a grass-roots organization designed to make tennis more accessible. Today, the NJTL receives significant funding from the USTA.

    “Growing up, Arthur was a sponge. . . . That was just his nature,” Johnnie Ashe said. “He was a voracious reader, and he had to satisfy his intellect. I tell people if Arthur had concentrated on just tennis, he would have been the best in the world. But tennis was a vehicle. . . . He wanted to be able to take kids outside of their environs, outside of their element for a little while and expose them to what they can be. . . . And, let’s face it, most parents don’t have the wherewithal to do that. It’s not easy. What happens is you get somebody like Arthur — and following Arthur, LeBron James is starting to do things — to expose kids. It’s so important that that happens.”

    Billie Jean King called the NJTL one of the best things that ever happened to the sport.

    “Arthur and I had many conversations over the years about how to we make tennis better — for the players, the fans and the sport,” King said in an email Monday. “We both thought tennis needed to be more hospitable, and for Arthur a big part of that was improving access and opportunity to our sport for everyone. Arthur, and Althea Gibson before him, opened doors for people of color in our sport. And, from Venus and Serena [Williams] to Naomi Osaka and Frances Tiafoe, we are seeing the results of his efforts today.”

    Ashe’s efforts as a humanitarian inspired James Blake, who now chairs the USTA Foundation. Blake was growing up when Ashe’s humanitarian career was front and center, both as the leader of the group Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid and as a figure who spoke out to educate the nation about AIDS.

    “He never looked for sympathy,” Blake said. “Instead, he looked for a way to make life better for others that were struggling.”

    Blake counts himself as one who benefited from Ashe’s barrier-breaking career. It’s a legacy not lost on the USTA; Katrina Adams, its president and chief executive, is a black woman.

    But before Maria Sharapova lost in the fourth round to Carla Suarez Navarro and the riveted crowd turned its attention to Roger Federer’s match, Monday night was about Arthur Ashe. Johnnie’s flag came wrapped in a wooden display case.

    “I was thinking what I was going to design to keep it in, but I don’t have to. This is nice,” Johnnie said.

    “Until Arthur came along and Althea came along, tennis was a sport of the elites. Then you get two playground children — one from Harlem, one from Richmond — to break into the bigs. People had to stop and think about that. It opened the doors for other people, and that’s what it was all about. That’s what it was all about for him.”

    Voir de même:

    Waiting for the Next Arthur Ashe
    Harvey Araton
    Sept. 7, 2018

    On the second of two occasions when he had the privilege of a conversation with Arthur Ashe, MaliVai Washington, having just become the country’s No. 1 college player as a Michigan sophomore in 1989, happened to mention that he was thinking of turning pro.

    Ashe did not exactly tell him what he wanted to hear.

    “I don’t think he thought it was a very good idea,” Washington said.

    Ashe won the first United States Open at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills 50 years ago to the day of Sunday’s men’s final, to be played in a stadium named for him. He also won the 1970 Australian Open and a third and final major in 1975 at Wimbledon.

    After all these years there are the formidable but not mutually exclusive legacies of Ashe: as the only African-American man to win a Grand Slam tournament and as a venerated humanitarian. Washington came tantalizingly close to living up to the former and has found a contextual purpose in the latter.

    Washington, who made it to the Wimbledon final in 1996, can recall some self-imposed pressure to hoist the trophy Ashe had claimed there 21 years earlier because “when you’re the No. 1 black player, you feel a sense of responsibility.”

    That said, Washington was admittedly more focused on the biggest payday of his career, potential lifetime membership in the All England Club and a permanent engraving on its champions wall.

    “I’m honestly not thinking then that much about history and social issues, about how this is going to impact on America, what impact is it going to have on kids,” he said of the final, which he lost to Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands in straight sets. “But at 35, 45, O.K., I can think more intelligently about it and understand the impact.”

    Washington is now 49, the age at which Ashe died in 1993 of AIDS after getting H.I.V. through a blood transfusion. Family life in northern Florida is good for Washington, with a wife, two teenage children, a real estate business and an eponymous foundation in an impoverished area of Jacksonville that for 22 years has provided a tennis introduction for children unlikely to find a private pathway into the sport.

    Washington’s program is affiliated with the National Junior Tennis League, which Ashe co-founded in 1969 to promote discipline and character through tennis among under-resourced youth. If, in the process, another Ashe happened to emerge, so much the better. But that was not the primary function, or point.

    “We’re not a pathway to pro tennis by any stretch of the imagination,” Washington said. “At my foundation, we don’t have that ability, that capacity, never had an interest in going in that direction. We highly encourage kids to play on their high school team, go on to play or try out for their college team.

    “But our biggest bang for our buck is teaching life skills. Stay in our program, and you’ll have a focus on high school education, be on a good track when you leave high school. You’re not going to leave high school with a criminal record, or with a son or daughter.”

    Why there was no African-American male Grand Slam champion successor to Ashe in the years soon after his trailblazing is no great mystery, Washington said.

    Fifty years ago, tennis was largely the province of the wealthy and white, lacking a foundational structure to facilitate such an occurrence. Which doesn’t mean that Ashe didn’t influence the rise of a Yannick Noah, the French Grand Slam champion whom Ashe himself discovered in Cameroon. Or the likes of Richard Williams and Oracene Price, whose parental vision birthed the careers of Venus and Serena Williams. They in turn have been followed by a raft of African-American female players, including the 2017 U.S. Open women’s champion, Sloane Stephens, and the runner-up, Madison Keys.

    This year’s women’s final, on Saturday afternoon, will feature Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, a half-Japanese, half-Haitian player whose father used the Williams family as a model for his own daughters’ tennis ambitions.

    Looming over the lack of an African-American Grand Slam successor to Ashe is the vexing question of why the United States hasn’t produced a male champion since Andy Roddick won his only major title in New York in 2003. That most of the men’s titles have been claimed by a small handful of European players might be more of a tribute to them than a defining failure of the United States Tennis Association’s development capabilities.

    But on the home front, the issue is a pressing one, especially during America’s Grand Slam tournament, year after year.

    Washington retired in 1999 with four tour victories and a 1994 quarterfinal Australian Open result in addition to his Wimbledon run. He was followed by James Blake, who rose to No. 4 in the world during a 14-year career that included 10 tour titles and three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including two at the U.S. Open.

    Martin Blackman, the U.S.T.A.’s general manager for player development, agreed that a breakthrough by one or two young Americans — white or black — in the foreseeable future could help trigger a wave of next-generation stars from an expanding landscape of prospects at a time when African-American participation has significantly declined in baseball, and football is confronted with health concerns.

    “With tennis starting to be recognized as a really athletic sport, I think we do have a unique opportunity to pull some better athletes into the game,” said Blackman, an African-American man who played briefly on tour and once partnered with Washington to make the junior doubles semifinals of the 1986 Open. “So now it comes down to what can we do at the base to recruit and retain as many great young players as possible, make the game accessible and then get them into the system to stay.”

    Even with better intentions, and greater investment, it still took a set of circumstances worthy of a Disney script to land Frances Tiafoe, one of the more promising young American players, on tour.

    The son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, Tiafoe, 20, was introduced to the sport at a club in College Park, Md., where his father, Frances Sr., had found custodial work. Talent and a noticeable work ethic attracted well-heeled benefactors and helped Tiafoe climb to his current ranking of No. 44.

    He gained his first victory at the U.S. Open over France’s Adrian Mannarino, the 29th seed, in the first round before losing next time out. His father watched from the player’s box on the Grandstand court, high-fiving Frances’ coaches and trainer when the Mannarino match ended, and soon after contended that his son wasn’t all that unique.

    “There have to be thousands of kids like Frances out there, thousands who don’t have the same opportunities,” Frances Sr. said. “I’m not just talking about going to college, but going to the pro level, or just to have that chance, see if it’s possible.”

    This is where Washington holds up a metaphorical sign for caution, if not for an outright stop. Most people, he said, have little understanding of just how forbidding the odds are of becoming a pro, much less a champion.

    Like the Williams sisters, Washington — who was born in Glen Cove, N.Y., but grew up in Michigan — had the benefit of a tennis-driven father, William, who saw four of his five children play professionally. MaliVai, who typically goes by Mal, had by far the most success.

    “When I was a junior player, I was playing seven days a week and there were times when I was in high school where I was playing before school and after school,” he said. “It is so very difficult to win a major. I tried to win one, came close.”

    Then, speaking of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he added: “Federer and Nadal, they’ve won 20 and 17. What makes them so great is hard to understand. You just can’t throw money at kids and think it’s going to happen.”

    So how is it done? Where does one start?

    With smaller social achievements, Washington said. With helping young people love the game recreationally, while pursuing a better life than those in less affluent African-American communities have been dealt.

    He talked of a young female graduate of his program who recently finished college without any debt, thanks to a tennis scholarship. And for the foundation’s head tennis pro, he hired Marc Atkinson, who began playing at Washington’s facility in sixth grade and walked onto the Florida A&M tennis team.

    “He’s married with three kids, and at some point, I imagine he’s going to introduce the sport to his kids,” Washington said. “You know, I often think back to my ancestors and the challenges they had, whether it’s my parents growing up in the Deep South in the 1940s and 1950s, or my great-great-grandpa who was born a slave. I can trace my lineage back to people who were getting up and getting after it, who were trying to make a better life for themselves and their kids.

    “So with the thousands of kids that we’re helping, that tennis champion may be part of that next generation, or the one after that. You don’t know, but maybe 20 years from now, or 50 years from now, you’ll be able to look at a kid and track back a lineage to my youth foundation and that would be really cool.”

    Told that he sounded more like Ashe the humanitarian than Ashe the Grand Slam champion, Washington nodded with approval. His two meetings with Ashe produced “no deep conversations,” he said, and he did not heed Ashe’s advice on staying in school, though he eventually earned a degree in finance from the University of North Florida.

    A voice was nonetheless heard, and still resounds.

    Voir encore:

    Frédéric Potet

La Croix

A trois reprises, et par la plus pure des coïncidences, la question du sportif noir dans la société américaine s’est retrouvée sur le devant de l’actualité, ces trois dernières semaines. Il y eut d’abord, le 25 mars à Hollywood, l’attribution de l’Oscar du meilleur documentaire à When we were kings, le film de Leon Gast, sorti en France depuis mercredi, et dont le personnage central est le boxeur Mohammed Ali. Vint ensuite, le 13 avril, la victoire au Master d’Augusta (Géorgie, Etats-Unis) de la nouvelle étoile du golf mondial, le jeune Tiger Woods. Deux jours plus tard, enfin, l’Amérique célébrait le 50e anniversaire de l’intégration du premier joueur noir dans une équipe de base-ball professionnel, Jackie Robinson.

Robinson-Ali-Woods. Ces trois noms résumeraient presque la longue marche de l’émancipation du sportif noir aux Etats-Unis. Chacun d’entre eux représente une période, elle-même synonyme d’idéaux et de quête vers la reconnaissance. Si le film de Leon Gast nous montre bien quel incomparable combattant de la cause black fut Mohammed Ali, gageons qu’Ali ne serait pas devenu Ali à l’époque de Woods et que Robinson serait resté un modeste anonyme s’il avait joué dans les années 60.

Nul ne l’ignore plus aujourd’hui : si Jackie Robinson a pu trouver place au sein des Brooklyn Dodgers en cette année 1947, ce fut principalement pour des raisons extrasportives. Ce petit-fils d’esclave était en effet d’un tempérament suffisamment doux et détaché pour ne pas répondre aux concerts d’insultes dont il allait être la cible durant toute sa carrière. A l’instar de son aîné Jesse Owens, sprinter quatre fois médaillé d’or à qui Hitler refusa de serrer la main aux Jeux Olympiques de 1936 à Berlin, Jackie Robinson ne devait jamais rejoindre d’organisation militante. Sa présence au sein d’une équipe de la Major League (première division) allait pouvoir permettre, sans heurt, l’arrivée d’une nouvelle population dans les stades : le public noir.

Le roi dollar fait taire les langues

Autre contexte et autre façon de voir les choses, vingt ans plus tard. En 1964, quelques jours après son premier titre mondial, Cassius Clay intègre le mouvement politico-religieux des Blacks Muslims et devient Mohammed Ali. Trois ans plus tard, il refuse de partir au Vietnam, arguant qu’aucun Vietcong ne l’a « jamais traité de négro ». Rien d’étonnant lorsqu’en 1974, sur une idée du promoteur Don King, il part affronter George Foreman au Zaïre. L’africanisme possède son meilleur apôtre. Dans le film de Leon Gast, le boxeur incarne une sorte de roi-sorcier revenant au pays après plusieurs siècles d’exil. Ali ne fait alors rien d’autre que de la politique. Comme en ont fait les sprinteurs Tommie Smith, John Carlos et Lee Evans (qui deviendra entraîneur en Afrique) le jour où ils brandirent leur poing sur le podium des Jeux de Mexico de 1968.

De cette corporation de champions engagés, Arthur Ashe, décédé en 1993 après une vie passée à lutter contre diverses injustices (apartheid, sida, sort des réfugiés haïtiens), sera le dernier. Les années 80 et 90 sont un tournant. Le basketteur Michael Jordan devient le sportif le mieux payé au monde. Le sprinteur Carl Lewis, le boxeur Mike Tyson et aujourd’hui le très politiquement correct Tiger Woods vont répéter tour à tour qu’« on ne mélange pas sport et politique ». Le roi dollar fait taire les langues alors que, curieusement, le militantisme noir connaît un regain d’intérêt aux Etats-Unis.

Le paradoxe est même total le 16 octobre 1995 quand Louis Farrakhan, leader de la Nation of Islam, réunit un million de personnes à Washington. Ce jour-là, des slogans proclamant l’innocence d’O.J. Simpson reviennent souvent dans la foule. L’ancienne vedette de football américain est suspecté d’avoir tué sa femme. L’affaire a rendu l’Amérique totalement zinzin. A telle enseigne qu’O.J. est devenu une icône pour la population noire. Plus personne, alors, ne se rappelle que du temps de sa splendeur au coeur de la jet-set de Los Angeles, Simpson s’était appliqué à faire oublier aux Blancs qu’il était noir, allant jusqu’à prendre des cours de diction pour changer son accent. La politique, lui aussi, O.J. le disait déjà : ce n’était pas son job.

Voir par ailleurs:

Neil Armstrong Didn’t Forget the Flag
Rich Lowry
National review
September 5, 2018

The Apollo program was a national effort that depended on American derring-do and sacrifice. History is usually airbrushed to remove a figure who has fallen out of favor with a dictatorship, or to hide away an episode of national shame. Leave it to Hollywood to erase from a national triumph its most iconic moment.

The new movie First Man, a biopic about the Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, omits the planting of the American flag during his historic walk on the surface of the moon.

Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong in the film, tried to explain the strange editing of his moonwalk: “This was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement. I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero.” Armstrong was a reticent man, but he surely considered himself an American, and everyone else considered him a hero. (“You’re a hero whether you like it or not,” one newspaper admonished him on the 10th anniversary of the landing.)

Gosling added that Armstrong’s walk “transcended countries and borders,” which is literally true, since it occurred roughly 238,900 miles from Earth, although Armstrong got there on an American rocket, walked in an American spacesuit, and returned home to America.

Apollo 11 was, without doubt, an extraordinary human achievement. Armstrong’s famous words upon descending the ladder to the moon were apt: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A plaque left behind read: “HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON, JULY 1969 A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.”

But this was a national effort that depended on American derring-do, sacrifice, and treasure. It was a chapter in a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union that involved national prestige and the perceived worth of our respective economic and political systems. The Apollo program wasn’t about the brotherhood of man, but rather about achieving a national objective before a hated and feared adversary did.

The Soviets’ putting a satellite, Sputnik, into orbit first was a profound political and psychological shock. The historian Walter A. McDougall writes in his book on the space race, . . . The Heavens and the Earth:

In the weeks and months to come, Khrushchev and lesser spokesmen would point to the first Sputnik, “companion” or “fellow traveller,” as proof of the Soviet ability to deliver hydrogen bombs at will, proof of the inevitability of Soviet scientific and technological leadership, proof of the superiority of communism as a model for backwards nations, proof of the dynamic leadership of the Soviet premier.

The U.S. felt it had to rise to the challenge. As Vice President Lyndon Johnson put it, “Failure to master space means being second best in every aspect, in the crucial arena of our Cold War world. In the eyes of the world first in space means first, period; second in space is second in everything.”


The mission of Apollo 11 was, appropriately, soaked in American symbolism. The lunar module was called Eagle, and the command module Columbia. There had been some consideration to putting up a U.N. flag, but it was scotched — it would be an American flag and only an American flag.

The video of Armstrong and his partner Buzz Aldrin carefully working to set up the flag — fully extend it and sink the pole firmly enough in the lunar surface to stand — after their awe-inspiring journey hasn’t lost any of its power.

The director of First Man, Damien Chazelle, argues that the flag planting isn’t part of the movie because he wanted to focus on the inner Armstrong. But, surely, Armstrong, a former Eagle Scout, had feelings about putting the flag someplace it had never gone before?

There may be a crass commercial motive in the omission — the Chinese, whose market is so important to big films, might not like overt American patriotic fanfare. Neither does much of our cultural elite. They may prefer not to plant the flag — but the heroes of Apollo 11 had no such compunction.

Voir de plus:

What BlacKkKlansman Gets Wrong

It’s a slow, didactic film about a minor episode.

Kyle Smith
National Review
August 28, 2018

Billed as being based on “a crazy, outrageous incredible true story” about how a black cop infiltrated the KKK, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman would be more accurately described as the story of how a black cop in 1970s Colorado Springs spoke to the Klan on the phone. He pretended to be a white supremacist . . . on the phone. That isn’t infiltration, that’s prank-calling. A poster for the movie shows a black guy wearing a Klan hood. Great starting point for a comedy, but it didn’t happen. The cop who actually attended KKK meetings undercover was a white guy (played by Adam Driver). These led . . . well, nowhere in particular. No plot was foiled. Those meetups mainly revealed that Klansmen behave exactly how you’d expect Klansmen to behave.The movie is a typical Spike Lee joint: A thin story is told in painfully didactic style and runs on far too long. Screenwriters ordinarily try to start every scene as late as possible and end it as early as possible; Lee just lets things roll. If the point is made, he keeps making it. If the plot tends toward inertia, that’s just Lee saying, “Don’t get distracted by the story, pay attention to the message I’m sending.” He’s a rule-breaker all right. The rules he breaks are “Don’t be boring,” “Don’t be obvious,” and “Don’t ramble.”

But! BlacKkKlansman keeps getting called spot-on, and (as Quentin Tarantino showed in Django Unchained) the moronic nature of the Klan and its beliefs makes it an excellent target for comedy. Lee doesn’t exactly wield an épée as a satirist, though: His idea of a top joke is having the redneck Klansman think “gooder” is a word. Most of the movie isn’t even attempted comedy.

Lee’s principal achievement here is in showcasing the talents of John David Washington, in the first of what promise to be many starring roles in movies. Washington (son of Denzel) has an easygoing charisma as the unflappable Ron Stallworth, a rookie cop in Colorado Springs who volunteers to go undercover as a detective in 1972, near the height of the Black Power movement and a moment when law enforcement was closely tracking the activities of radicals such as Stokely Carmichael, a.k.a. Kwame Ture, a speech of whose Stallworth says he attended while posing as an ordinary citizen. In the movie, Stallworth experiences an awakening of black pride and falls for a student leader, Patrice (a luminous Laura Harrier, who also played Peter Parker’s girlfriend in Spider-Man: Homecoming), inspiring in him the need to do something for his people. He dismisses Carmichael’s call for armed revolution as mere grandstanding, really just a means for drawing black people together. After the speech, the audience goes to a party instead of a riot.

The Klan also turn out to be grandstanders and blowhards given to Carmichael-style paranoid prophecies and seem to hope to troll their enemies into attacking them. When Lee realizes he needs something to actually happen besides racist talk, he turns to a subplot featuring a white-supremacist lady running around with a purse full of C-4 explosive with which she intends to blow up the black radicals. It’s so unconvincing that you watch it thinking, “I really doubt this happened.” It didn’t. The only other tense moment in the film, in which Driver’s undercover cop (who is Jewish) is nearly subjected to a lie-detector test about his religion by a suspicious Klansman, is also fabricated.

Lee frames his two camps as opposites, but whether we’re with the black-power types or the white-power yokels, they’re equally wrong about the race war they seem to yearn for. The two sides are equally far from the stable center, the color-blind institution holding society together, which turns out to be . . . the police! After some talk from the radical Patrice (whose character is also a fabrication) about how the whole system is corrupt and she could never date a “pig,” and a scene in which Stallworth implies the police’s code of covering for one another reminds him of the Klan, Lee winds up having the police unite to fight racism, with one bad apple expunged and everybody else on the otherwise all-white force supporting Ron.

That Spike Lee has turned in a pro-cop film has to be counted one of the stranger cultural developments of 2018, but Lee seems to have accidentally aligned with cops in the course of issuing an anti-Trump broadside. He has one cop tell us that anti-immigration rhetoric, opposition to affirmative action, “and tax reform” are the kinds of issues that white supremacists will use to snake their way into high office. Tax reform! If there has ever been a president, or indeed a politician, who failed to advocate “tax reform,” I guess I missed it. What candidate has ever said on the stump, “My fellow Americans, I propose no change to tax policy whatsoever!” If Lee grabbed us by the lapels just once per movie, it might be forgivable, but he does it all the time. (See also: an introduction in which Alec Baldwin plays a Southern cracker called Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard who rants about desegregation for several minutes, then is never seen again.)

Lee’s other major goal is to link Stallworth’s story to Trumpism using David Duke. Duke, like Trump, said awful things at the time of the Charlottesville murder and played a part in the Stallworth story when the cop was assigned to protect the Klan leader (played by Topher Grace) on a visit to Colorado Springs and later threw his arm around him while posing for a picture. Saying Duke presaged Trump seems like a stretch, though.

After all the nudge-nudge MAGA lines uttered by the Klansmen throughout the film, the let-me-spell-it-out-for-you finale, with footage from the Charlottesville white-supremacist rally, seems de trop. BlacKkKlansman was timed to hit theaters one year after the anniversary of the horror in Virginia. That Charlottesville II attracted only two dozen pathetic dorks to the cause of white supremacy would seem to undermine the coda. The Klan’s would-be successors, far from being more emboldened than they have been since Stallworth’s time, appear to be nearly extinct.

Voir encore:

US Open: furieuse, Serena Williams crie au scandale et se dit volée par l’arbitre

Cette finale en forme de choc des générations face à la Japonaise Naomi Osaka s’est transformée en véritable psychodrame ce samedi à l’US Open. Jamais entrée dans ce match qui était pour elle une vraie page d’histoire, Serena Williams a sombré dans la chasse à l’arbitre, s’estimant volée.

« Je ne suis pas une tricheuse! Vous me devez des excuses! »: des phrases répétées à plusieurs reprises par Serena Williams à l’arbitre, soudainement propulsé en pleine lumière. C’est bien ce qui restera dans les livres d’histoire à propos de cette finale de l’US Open. Tant pis pour Naomi Osaka, impeccable pour remporter, en deux sets, ce choc face à son idole et le premier Grand Chelem de sa carrière (6-2, 6-4).

En cas de victoire ce samedi, l’Américaine pouvait entrer définitivement dans l’histoire en égalant le record de Margaret Court, détentrice de 24 Majeurs, record absolu. La géante de 36 ans a toujours eu du mal avec les moments d’histoire… Pour égaler Steffi Graf et ses 22 sacres en Grand Chelem, Serena Williams en était déjà passée par une demi-finale perdue à Flushing Meadows, deux finales perdues à Melbourne puis Roland-Garros avant le soulagement de Wimbledon 2016. Désillusion encore en demie de l’US Open la même année pour repousser d’un Majeur ce record de l’ère Open qu’elle détient désormais seule.

Williams et l’US Open, c’est compliqué…

Idole de tout un pays, l’Américaine aura également toujours eu du mal à jouer sur son sol. Pour des raisons diverses. Son boycott du tournoi d’Indian Wells durant 14 ans était dû à ces insultes racistes dont elle avait été victime. A l’US Open, où elle a conquis six trophées, la joueuse de 36 ans a connu des émotions contraires, entre ses sacres et ses désillusions. En 2011, face à Samantha Stosur, elle avait écopé d’une amende pour avoir explosé de colère contre l’arbitre, qui lui avait annulé un point pour cause de « come on » lâché avant la fin de l’échange.

Tiens, tiens, des problèmes avec l’arbitre… comme ce samedi. Rattrapée par la pression, Serena Williams a fini par exploser. La faute à son tennis, pas en place, malmené par une Naomi Osaka sans complexe et remarquable, qu’elle a d’ailleurs chaudement félicité à l’issue du match. La faute aussi à ce que l’Américaine a ressenti comme une injustice.

Après un premier set à sens unique, la joueuse de 36 ans a écopé d’un avertissement de la part de l’arbitre. Motif? Coaching. « Je ne suis pas une tricheuse! Je suis mère de famille, je n’ai jamais triché de ma vie », a-t-elle lancé, pleine de colère. Est-ce un quiproquo? Si son entraîneur a bien semblé lui faire un signe, la cadette des soeurs Williams assure ne pas avoir reçu de coaching. Difficile de trancher.

« Ai-je coaché? Oui, je l’ai coachée avec des gestes, a expliqué Patrick Mouratoglou sur Eurosport après la rencontre. Elle ne m’a pas vu. J’ajoute que dans 100% des cas, les joueuses bénéficient de coaching et normalement, surtout en finale d’un Grand Chelem, l’arbitre prévient la joueuse avant un éventuel avertissement. »

Raquette cassée et point perdu

La situation s’est envenimée tandis que la recordwoman de titre en Grand Chelem dans l’ère Open venait de se faire débreaker alors qu’elle semblait pourtant reprendre l’ascendant. Serena Williams en a fracassé sa raquette de rage – chose d’une extrême rareté pour elle – et a donc pris… un nouvel avertissement et un point de pénalité. Fureur.

Au changement de côté, l’arbitre en a fait les frais. « Vous m’avez volé un point! Je ne suis pas une tricheuse », a répété l’Américaine. Estimant que la joueuse était allée trop loin, l’arbitre a donc enchaîné avec un troisième avertissement, synonyme de jeu de pénalité. Derrière, après un jeu de service façon parpaings de Williams, Naomi Osaka a servi pour le match. Pour s’imposer.

Son coach crie au scandale

Pas de poignée de main à l’arbitre pour Serena Williams, qui avait bien tenté d’invoquer le superviseur pour faire annuler son jeu de pénalité… sans succès. « Une fois de plus, la star du show a été l’arbitre de chaise. Pour la deuxième fois dans cet US Open et la troisième fois pour Serena Williams en finale de l’US Open, s’est insurgé son coach Patrick Mouratoglou sur Twitter. Devraient-ils être autorisés à avoir une influence sur le résultat d’un match? Quand déciderons-nous que cela ne doit plus jamais arriver? » Une allusion à ce « coaching par l’arbitre » dont avait bénéficié Nick Kyrgios contre Pierre-Hugues Herbert au deuxième tour.

Une accolade chaleureuse avec son adversaire, des appels à la foule pour applaudir la Japonaise… Serena Williams, en larmes, aura tenté de faire bonne figure sur le podium, avant de s’éclipser. Dur pour son adversaire, presque honteuse d’avoir battu son idole dans de telles conditions. Avec le superviseur, l’Américaine estimait que les hommes n’étaient pas traités de la même manière qu’elle le fut ce samedi. Le débat est ouvert. Sans doute à raison.

Voir enfin:

Serena has mother of all meltdowns in US Open final loss
Brian Lewis
New York Post
September 8, 2018

What was supposed to be history descended into histrionics.

Serena Williams came into Saturday’s U.S. Open final looking for a record-setting title. What she got was a game penalty and an emotional meltdown.

It overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s 6-2, 6-4 win over her idol for her first Grand Slam title, and put a mark on the Open’s golden anniversary.

Though Williams repeatedly demanded an apology from chair umpire Carlos Ramos and got a game penalty after calling him a “liar” and a “thief,” she ended the match in tears. And Osaka — who sat in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium when she was 5, watching Williams play — was in tears herself as the pro-Williams crowd rained boos upon the victor’s stand, which included USTA officials.

All in all it was a pitiful scene, Williams actually getting her apology from Osaka instead of Ramos.

“I know everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this,” said a tearful Osaka, 20, so shaken she nearly dropped her trophy. Meanwhile, Williams — who’d regained her composure — put her arm around her young foe and implored the crowd to stop booing.

“I felt bad because I’m crying and she’s crying,” said Williams. “She just won. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or they were sad tears because of the moment. I felt like, wow, this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam. I was like, wow, I definitely don’t want her to feel like that. Maybe it was the mom in me that was like, ‘Listen, we got to pull ourselves together here.’ ”

Williams had come in seeking a milestone win, one that would’ve tied Margaret Court’s all-time record for Grand Slams (24). But Osaka — and Williams’ own temper tantrum — scuttled those plans.

In the second game of the second set, Ramos hit Williams with a code violation for receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou from her player’s box.

“You owe me an apology,” Williams said. “I’ve never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and stand for what’s right for her.”

Still, Mouratoglou admitted he’d given her advice, though threw in the disclaimer she may not have seen it from the other end of the court.

“I just texted Patrick, like, what is he talking about? Because we don’t have signals, we’ve never discussed signals. I don’t even call for on-court coaching,” Williams said. “I’m trying to figure out why he would say that. I don’t understand. Maybe he said, ‘You can do it.’ I was on the far other end, so I’m not sure. I want to clarify myself what he’s talking about.”

Williams got a second code violation four games later, up 3-2. After Osaka broke her serve, Williams broke her racket in frustration and was assessed a point penalty.

“You will never, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You’re the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? Say it! Say you’re sorry!” Williams ranted, before ending with, “You’re a thief, too.”

That was the last straw, and Ramos hit her with a third code violation for verbal abuse, which cost Williams a game to put Osaka up 5-3. An irate Williams argued in vain to tournament referee Brian Earley and got closed out two games later.

The U.S. Open released a statement saying “the chair umpire’s decision was final and not reviewable by the Tournament Referee or the Grand Slam Supervisor who were called to the court at that time.” Williams contends that letter of the law wouldn’t have been followed if she’d been male.

“I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was sexist,” Williams said. “He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’. For me it blows my mind.”

Voir de plus:

Colin Kaepernick, ou le difficile retour du sportif engagé

L’ancien quarterback des San Francisco 49ers est toujours sans équipe, ostracisé pour avoir osé boycotter l’hymne national des Etats-Unis. D’autres sportifs le soutiennent dans son activisme politique

Valérie de Graffenried
Le Temps
15 septembre 2017

Son genou droit posé à terre le 1er septembre 2016 a fait de lui un paria. Ce jour-là, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback des San Francisco 49ers, avait une nouvelle fois décidé de ne pas se lever pour l’hymne national. Coupe afro et regard grave, il était resté dans cette position pour protester contre les violences raciales et les bavures policières qui embrasaient les Etats-Unis. «Je ne vais pas afficher de fierté pour le drapeau d’un pays qui opprime les Noirs. Il y a des cadavres dans les rues et des meurtriers qui s’en tirent avec leurs congés payés», avait-il déclaré.

Plus d’un an après, la polémique reste vive. Son boycott lui vaut toujours d’être marginalisé et tenu à l’écart par la Ligue nationale de football américain (NFL).

Des manifestations en sa faveur

L’affaire rebondit ces jours, à l’occasion des débuts de la saison de la NFL. Sans contrat depuis mars, Colin Kaepernick est de facto un joueur sans équipe, à la recherche d’un nouvel employeur. Un agent libre. Plusieurs manifestations de soutien ont eu lieu ces dernières semaines. Le 24 août dernier, c’est devant le siège de la NFL, à New York, que plusieurs centaines de personnes ont manifesté contre son ostracisme. La NAACP, une organisation de défense des Noirs américains, en était à l’origine. Le 10 septembre, une mobilisation similaire a eu lieu du côté de Chicago.

Plus surprenant, une centaine de policiers new-yorkais ont manifesté ensemble fin août à Brooklyn, tous affublés d’un t-shirt noir avec le hashtag #imwithkap. Le célèbre policier Frank Serpico, 81 ans, qui a dénoncé la corruption généralisée de la police dans les années 1960 et inspiré Al Pacino pour le film Serpico (1973), en faisait partie.

Le soutien de Tommie SmithLes sportifs américains sont nombreux à afficher leur soutien à Colin Kaepernick. C’est le cas notamment des basketteurs Kevin Durant ou Stephen Curry, des Golden State Warriors. «Sa posture et sa protestation ont secoué le pays dans le bon sens du terme. J’espère qu’il reviendra en NFL parce qu’il mérite d’y jouer. Il est au sommet de sa forme et peut rendre une équipe meilleure», vient de souligner Stephen Curry au Charlotte Observer.

La légende du baseball Hank Aaron fait également partie des soutiens inconditionnels de Colin Kaepernick. Sans oublier Tommie Smith, qui lors des Jeux olympiques de Mexico en 1968 avait, sur le podium du 200 mètres, levé son poing ganté de noir contre la ségrégation raciale, avec son comparse John Carlos.

Effet domino

Le geste militant à répétition de Colin Kaepernick, d’abord assis puis agenouillé, a eu un effet domino. Son coéquipier Eric Reid l’avait immédiatement imité la première fois qu’il a mis le genou à terre. Une partie des joueurs des Cleveland Browns continuent, en guise de solidarité, de boycotter l’hymne des Etats-Unis, joué avant chaque rencontre sportive professionnelle.

La footballeuse homosexuelle Megan Rapinoe, championne olympique en 2012 et championne du monde en 2015, avait elle aussi suivi la voie de Colin Kaepernick et posé son genou à terre. Mais depuis que la Fédération américaine de football (US Soccer) a édicté un nouveau règlement, en mars 2017, qui oblige les internationaux à se tenir debout pendant l’hymne, elle est rentrée dans le rang.

Colin Kaepernick lui-même s’était engagé à se lever pour l’hymne pour la saison 2017. Une promesse qui n’a pas pour autant convaincu la NFL de le réintégrer.

Des cochons habillés en policiers

Barack Obama avait pris sa défense; Donald Trump l’a enfoncé. En pleine campagne, le milliardaire new-yorkais avait qualifié son geste d’«exécrable», l’hymne et le drapeau étant sacro-saints aux Etats-Unis. Il a été jusqu’à lui conseiller de «chercher un pays mieux adapté». Les chaussettes à motifs de cochons habillés en policiers que Colin Kaepernick a portées pendant plusieurs entraînements – elles ont été très remarquées – n’ont visiblement pas contribué à le rendre plus sympathique à ses yeux.

Mais ni les menaces de mort ni ses maillots brûlés n’ont calmé le militantisme de Colin Kaepernick. Un militantisme d’ailleurs un peu surprenant et parfois taxé d’opportunisme: métis, de mère blanche et élevé par des parents adoptifs blancs, Colin Kaepernick n’a rallié la cause noire, et le mouvement Black Lives Matter, que relativement tardivement.

Avant Kaepernick, la star de la NBA LeBron James avait défrayé la chronique en portant un t-shirt noir avec en lettres blanches «Je ne peux pas respirer». Ce sont les derniers mots d’un jeune Noir américain asthmatique tué par un policier blanc. Par ailleurs, il avait ouvertement soutenu Hillary Clinton dans sa course à l’élection présidentielle. Timidement, d’autres ont affiché leurs convictions politiques sur des t-shirts, mais sans aller jusqu’au boycott de l’hymne national, un geste très contesté. L’élection de Donald Trump et le drame de Charlottesville provoqué par des suprémacistes blancs ont contribué à favoriser l’émergence de ce genre de protestations.

Le retour des athlètes activistes

Ces comportements signent un retour du sportif engagé, une espèce presque en voie de disparition depuis les années 1960-1970, où de grands noms comme Mohamed Ali, Billie Jean King ou John Carlos ont porté leur militantisme à bras-le-corps.

Au cours des dernières décennies, l’heure n’était pas vraiment à la revendication politique, confirme Orin Starn, professeur d’anthropologie culturelle à l’Université Duke en Caroline du Nord. A partir des années 1980, c’est plutôt l’image du sportif businessman qui a primé, celui qui s’intéresse à ses sponsors, à devenir le meilleur possible, soucieux de ne déclencher aucune polémique. Un sportif lisse avant tout motivé par ses performances et sa carrière. Comme le basketteur Michael Jordan ou le golfeur Tiger Woods.

Élargir le débat au-delà du jeu

«Des sportifs semblent désormais plus facilement se mettre en avant pour évoquer leurs convictions, que ce soient des championnes de tennis ou des footballeurs. Mais ces athlètes activistes restent encore minoritaires. Peu ont suivi Kaepernick lorsqu’il s’est agenouillé pendant l’hymne national. La plupart se focalisent sur leur sport, ils ne sont pas vraiment désireux de jouer les trouble-fête», précise l’anthropologue. Pour lui, ce nouvel activisme reste néanmoins réjouissant.

«Dans notre culture, ces sportifs sont des dieux, qui peuvent exercer une influence positive. Ils peuvent être un bon exemple d’engagement civique pour des jeunes.» Et puis, ajoute Orin Starn, une bonne controverse comme l’affaire Kaepernick permet de pimenter un peu le sport et d’élargir le débat au-delà du jeu. Colin Kaepernick ne commentera pas: il refuse les interviews. Mais il continue, sur Twitter, de faire vivre son militantisme et ses convictions. Egal à lui-même.

Voir de même:

Colin Kaepernick, le footballeur américain militant contre les violences policières, devient l’un des visages de Nike

En choisissant le joueur pour sa campagne publicitaire, l’équipementier prend parti dans la mobilisation contre les violences policières infligées aux Noirs américains, qui irrite au plus haut point Donald Trump.

Le Monde

Le joueur de football américain Colin Kaepernick, à l’origine en 2016 du mouvement de boycott de l’hymne américain, est devenu l’un des visages de la dernière campagne de publicité de l’équipementier sportif Nike. Il apparaît aux côtés de la reine du tennis féminin Serena Williams et de la mégastar de la NBA LeBron James dans cette campagne, qui coïncide avec le 30e anniversaire du célèbre slogan « Just do it » de la marque à la virgule.

Sur son compte Twitter, Colin Kaepernick a publié lundi 3 septembre le visuel montrant en gros plan son visage en noir et blanc avec le message « Croyez en quelque chose. Même si cela signifie tout sacrifier ».

Depuis qu’il a lancé son mouvement pour protester contre les violences policières exercées à l’encontre des Noirs américains en posant un genou à terre lors de l’hymne américain, Colin Kaepernick est devenu une personnalité controversée aux Etats-Unis, célébrée par les uns et détestée par les autres, notamment par le président américain Donald Trump, entré en guerre ouverte à l’automne dernier contre les joueurs protestataires.

Lire aussi :   La révolution Kaepernick, ou comment Black Lives Matter a fait école dans les stades américains

Entrée sur le terrain politique pour Nike

Colin Kaepernick n’a pas retrouvé d’équipe depuis l’expiration de son contrat avec San Francisco au début de 2017 et a attaqué en justice la Ligue nationale de football américain (NFL), qu’il accuse de collusion pour l’empêcher de poursuivre sa carrière.

Il est sous contrat depuis 2011 avec Nike qui, à la différence de la plupart de ses autres partenaires, n’a pas résilié son contrat de sponsoring. A trois jours du coup d’envoi de la saison 2018 de NFL, Nike frappe fort en termes de marketing. L’équipementier prend surtout clairement parti – et c’est une première pour une entreprise de cette taille – sur une question qui divise le pays depuis près de deux ans et qui irrite au plus haut point Donald Trump.

Sur le site Internet de la chaîne ESPN, Gino Fisanotti, dirigeant de Nike, a lancé :

« Nous croyons que Colin est l’un des sportifs les plus charismatiques de sa génération, qui utilise la puissance du sport pour faire bouger le monde. »

Le grand groupe américain qui fournit les équipements et les tenues des 32 équipes engagées en NFL et a renouvelé au mois de mars son partenariat pour huit ans avec l’association d’équipes professionnelles de football américain va encore plus loin. Il a prolongé son contrat de partenariat avec Colin Kaepernick et s’est engagé à créer une basket à son nom, honneur suprême pour un sportif professionnel, tout en finançant sa fondation d’aide à l’enfance.

Trump face à la fronde des sportifs

La marque connue pour ses campagnes de publicité novatrices s’expose aussi au courroux de Donald Trump. S’il n’a pas encore envoyé l’un de ses tweets assassins, le président américain mène depuis l’automne dernier une bataille personnelle contre ces joueurs de football américain qui, inspirés par Colin Kaepernick, posent un genou à terre ou lèvent un poing, tête baissée, durant l’hymne américain joué avant chaque match.

Pour Donald Trump et une partie de l’opinion publique américaine, ces gestes sont antipatriotiques, une insulte aux militaires qui ont servi et trouvé la mort sous le drapeau américain. Le président avait demandé aux propriétaires d’équipes de les sanctionner, voire de les licencier.

Lire aussi :   Après le boycott de l’hymne américain, la NFL décide d’obliger les joueurs à rester debout

La NFL pensait avoir désamorcé une réédition de la crise de 2017, qui a pénalisé ses recettes publicitaires et les audiences TV, en édictant au printemps dernier une réglementation autorisant les joueurs à protester à condition qu’ils restent dans les vestiaires pendant l’hymne. Mais cette réglementation a depuis été suspendue pour éviter les recours en justice. C’était avant que Nike ne fasse resurgir Kaepernick et son combat sur le devant de la scène et ne relance de plus belle la polémique.

« Je pense que tous les athlètes, tous les humains et tous les Afro-Américains devraient être totalement reconnaissants et honorés » par les manifestations lancées par les anciens joueurs de la NFL Colin Kaepernick et Eric Reid, a déclaré Serena Williams.

Lire aussi :   Donald Trump ouvre un nouveau front intérieur, cette fois-ci contre le monde du sport

Réplique sur les réseaux sociaux

Les réseaux sociaux n’ont pas tardé à réagir, les partisans de Donald Trump lançant une campagne appelant au boycottage ou à la destruction des produits de l’équipementier, avec l’apparition des hashtags #BoycottNike #JustBurnIt. L’ingénieur du son de John Rich, du duo de musique country Big and Rich, aurait ainsi découpé ses chaussettes Nike, alors qu’un certain Sean Clancy postait sur Twitter la vidéo de l’immolation par le feu d’une paire de chaussures de sport. « D’abord la NFL me force à choisir entre mon sport préféré et mon pays. J’ai choisi mon pays. Puis Nike me force à choisir entre mes chaussures préférées et mon pays », a-t-il écrit. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle invite, elle, à mettre à la poubelle les vêtements de la marque.

Des prises de position aussitôt tournées en ridicule par d’autres internautes, qui se moquent notamment du fait que les partisans du président détruisent des équipements qu’ils ont payés – souvent au prix fort. Ainsi Adolph Joseph DeLaGarza, joueur de football (soccer) du Dynamo de Houston, relève le manque de logique de la démarche : « Donc, en ne voulant pas soutenir ou promouvoir @Nike, vous découpez des chaussettes déjà payées et PUIS vous tweetez @Nike. Logique ! »

Voir de plus:

Nike’s « Just do it » slogan is based on a murderer’s last words, says Dan Wieden

Marcus Fairs
Design Indaba 2015: the advertising executive behind Nike‘s « Just do it » slogan has told Dezeen how he based one of the world’s most recognisable taglines on the words of a convict facing a firing squad (+ interview).Dan Wieden, co-founder of advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, described the surprising genesis of the slogan in an interview at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town last month. »I was recalling a man in Portland, » Wieden told Dezeen, remembering how in 1988 he was struggling to come up with a line that would tie together a number of different TV commercials the fledgling agency had created for the sportswear brand. »He grew up in Portland, and ran around doing criminal acts in the country, and was in Utah where he murdered a man and a woman, and was sent to jail and put before a firing squad. »Wieden continued: « They asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said: ‘Let’s do it’. I didn’t like ‘Let’s do it’ so I just changed it to ‘Just do it’. »The murderer was Gary Gilmore, who had grown up in Portland, Oregan – the city that is home to both Nike and Wieden+Kennedy. In 1976 Gilmore robbed and murdered two men in Utah and was executed by firing squad the following year (by some accounts Gilmore actually said « Let’s do this » just before he was shot).

Nike’s first commercial featuring the « Just do it » slogan

Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who was sceptical about the need for advertising, initially rejected the idea. « Phil Knight said, ‘We don’t need that shit’, » Wieden said. « I said ‘Just trust me on this one.’ So they trusted me and it went big pretty quickly. »

The slogan, together with Nike’s « Swoosh » logo, helped propel the sportswear brand into a global giant, overtaking then-rival Reebok, and is still in use almost three decades after it was coined.

Campaign magazine described it as « arguably the best tagline of the 20th century, » saying it « cut across age and class barriers, linked Nike with success – and made consumers believe they could be successful too just by wearing its products. »

The magazine continued: « Like all great taglines, it was both simple and memorable. It also suggested something more than its literal meaning, allowing people to interpret it as they wished and, in doing so, establish a personal connection with the brand. »

Dan Wieden

Born in 1945, Wieden formed Wieden+Kennedy in Portaland with co-founder David Kennedy in 1982. The company now has offices around the world and has « billings in excess of $3 billion, » Wieden said.

Wieden revealed in his lecture at Design Indaba that shares in the privately owned agency had recently been put into a trust, making it « impossible » for the firm to be sold.

« I’ve sworn in private and in public that we will never, ever sell the agency, » Wieden said. « It just isn’t fair that once sold, a handful of people will walk off with great gobs of money and those left behind will face salary cuts or be fired, and the culture will be destroyed. »

He added: « The partners and I got together a couple of years ago and put our shares in a trust, whose only obligation is to never ever, under no circumstances, sell the agency.”

Here is an edited transcript of our interview with Dan Wieden:

Marcus Fairs: You’re probably bored to death of this question but tell me how the Nike slogan came about.

Dan Wieden: So, it was the first television campaign we’d done with some money behind, so we actually came up with five different 30 second spots. The night before I got a little concerned because there were five different teams working, so there wasn’t an overlying sensibility to them all. Some were funny, some were solemn. So I thought you know, we need a tagline to pull this stuff together, which we didn’t really believe in at the time but I just felt it was going to be too fragmented.

So I stayed up that night before and I think I wrote about four or five ideas. I narrowed it down to the last one, which was « Just do it ». The reason I did that one was funny because I was recalling a man in Portland.

He grew up in Portland, and ran around doing criminal acts in the country, and was in Utah where he murdered a man and a woman, and was sent to jail and put before a firing squad. And they asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said: « Let’s do it ».

And for some reason I went: « Now damn. How do you do that? How do you ask for an ultimate challenge that you are probably going to lose, but you call it in? » So I thought, well, I didn’t like « Let’s do it » so I just changed it to « Just do it ».

I showed it to some of the folks in the agency before we went to present to Nike and they said « We don’t need that shit ». I went to Nike and [Nike co-founder] Phil Knight said, « We don’t need that shit ». I said « Just trust me on this one. » So they trusted me and it went big pretty quickly.

Marcus Fairs: Most of Dezeen’s audience is involved in making products, whether it’s trainers or cars or whatever. What is the relationship between what you do and the product?

Dan Wieden: Well if you notice in all the Nike work – I mean there is work that shows individual shoes, but a lot of the work that we do is more talking about the role of sports or athletics. And Nike became strong because it wasn’t just trying to peddle products; it was trying to peddle ideas and the mental and physical options you can take. So it was really unusual and it worked very well.

Marcus Fairs: And what about other clients? What do you do if the client just wants you to show the product?

Dan Wieden: Well, it depends on the client as well. But you have to be adding something to a product that is beyond just taste, or fit, or any of that kind of stuff. You have to have a sensibility about the product, a sort of spirit of the product almost.

Marcus Fairs: And do you turn down brands that have product which you don’t think is good enough?

Dan Wieden: Oh sure. And we fire clients!

Voir encore:

September 7, 2018

Last year, Naomi Osaka commanded the world’s attention when she bested the U.S. Open’s defending champion Angelique Kerber in a stunning upset in the very first round. This year, the 20-year-old upstart has a shot at claiming the title herself as she challenges six-time champion Serena Williams in a historic final on Saturday.

In what Osaka termed her “dream match” against her idol, Saturday’s game pits tennis’ rising star against one of the game’s ultimate greats — if Williams wins she would tie Margaret Court for the overall record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

The two have competed only once before, and it’s the newcomer who holds the upper hand. As Serena herself put it, Osaka is “a really good, talented player. Very dangerous.”

Ahead of Saturday’s face off, here’s what to know about the new kid on the block.

A first for Japan

For her country, Osaka has already succeeded in a major milestone: She is the first Japanese woman to reach the final of any Grand Slam. And she’s currently her country’s top-ranked player.

Yet in Japan, where racial homogeneity is prized and ethnic background comprises a big part of cultural belonging, Osaka is considered hafu or half Japanese. Born to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, Osaka grew up in New York. She holds dual American and Japanese passports, but plays under Japan’s flag.

Some hafu, like Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto, have spoken publicly about the discrimination the term can confer. “I wonder how a hafu can represent Japan,” one Facebook user wrote of Miyamoto, according to Al Jazeera America’s translation.

For her part, Osaka has spoken repeatedly about being proud to represent Japan, as well as Haiti. But in a 2016 USA Today interview she also noted, “When I go to Japan people are confused. From my name, they don’t expect to see a black girl.”

On the court, Osaka has largely been embraced as one of her country’s rising stars. Off court, she says she’s still trying to learn the language.

“I can understand way more Japanese than I can speak,” she said.

‘Like no one ever was’

In her press conferences, which for now are English only, Osaka has earned a reputation for her youthful candor and nerdy sense of humor.

In response to a reporter asking about her ambitions, she said, “to be the very best, like no one ever was.” After an awkward pause, she clarified, “I’m sorry; that’s the Pokémon theme song. But, yeah, to be the very best, and go as far as I can go.”

At Indian Wells this year, where Osaka stunned her higher-ranked opponents and claimed victory after searing past the world’s number one Simona Halep in the semis and besting Daria Kasatkina in the finals, she proved herself no longer just the underdog. She then proceeded to give what she described as “the worst acceptance speech of all time.”

“Hello, hi, I am—okay never mind,” it began, before a litany of thank you’s petered out into giggles.

But don’t let her soft-spoken persona or goofy interviews fool you. On court, Osaka brings the heat, uncorking both ferocious power and an aggressive baseline game.


Earlier this year, Osaka reveled a four-word mantra keeps her steady through tough matches: “What would Serena do?”

Her idolization of the 23 Grand Slam-winning titan is well-known.

“She’s the main reason why I started playing tennis,” Osaka told the New York Times.

When the two played in Miami in March, six months after Serena nearly died giving birth, Osaka won. Then she Instagrammed a photo of her shaking hands with her idol, captioned only, “Omg.”

After Osaka cleared the U.S. Open semis on Thursday and it became clear she was not only headed to her first Grand Slam final but was also about to face her hero once more, she was asked if she had anything to say to Serena. Her message? “I love you.”

Voir enfin:

Playing the national anthem is a vestige of wartime fervor. So why is it still a part of U.S. sports events?

No song in the English language is as routinely mangled and misinterpreted, as frequently tortured and trivialized, as relentlessly debased and diluted as The Star-Spangled Banner. Well, maybe Feelings—but you don’t have to get on your feet and take off your hat for Feelings. The words to the U.S. national anthem are elusive, the tune is impossible to carry unless you’re Robert Merrill, and the reasons the song is played before virtually every sporting event have long since been forgotten. « I guess they play it because a lot of old people fought in wars, and it means a lot to them, » says Kansas State guard Elliot Hatcher, offering what might be called the historical perspective.

But it must be more complicated than that. Otherwise, why would the nation have paid so much attention last week when Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf became either a heroic symbol of a man acting on his principles or Public Enemy No. 1 by refusing to stand for the national anthem before games? Duck, Mahmoud—there’s cross fire. From the left, here’s Hamid Algar, a professor of Islamic studies at Cal: « Unfortunately, too many Muslims are too ignorant or intimidated by the propaganda of anti-Islamic rhetoric to stand behind Mahmoud. » And from the right, here’s pro golfer Mike Sullivan: « I don’t think they should suspend him. I think they should shoot him. »

The NBA’s suspension of Abdul-Rauf, which resulted from his defying a provision in the league’s operations manual requiring all players to « stand and line up in a dignified posture … during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems » lasted just one game (page 52). But, really, the anthem controversy never goes away—and it will surface again. Maybe in Seattle, if SuperSonics fans suddenly get perturbed with forward Sam Perkins. As a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refuse to pledge allegiance to any government, Perkins stands at attention but well out of line from his teammates during the national anthem. Or maybe it will be in Charlotte, where Hornets owner George Shinn—who has also added an invocation to the pregame festivities at Charlotte Coliseum—intimidates his team into compliance. Shinn says he tells the Hornets, « I’m going to be up there in the stands watching, and if you’re down there picking your nose and not standing at attention, then you’re telling me you don’t like it here and want to be traded. » Or maybe it will happen when another celebrity strolls to the pitcher’s mound, remote mike in hand, ramparts and twilight’s last gleamings all mixed up in his brainpan, and carves Francis Scott Key’s 1814 paean to war into little pieces.

So it seems like the appropriate time—once Sullivan puts down that two-iron—to ask, Has the national anthem as pregame ritual outlived its usefulness? The practice of playing The Star-Spangled Banner is clearly rooted in wartime patriotic fervor. During World War I it became customary to play the song before baseball games, and it was during WWII that it became de rigueur to play the anthem at all sporting events. There are other nations that take the playing of their national anthem as seriously as the U.S. In Israel Hatikvah (The Hope) used to be played only before international basketball games and soccer matches, but since the 1991 Persian Gulf war it has been a staple at almost all athletic competitions. In Kenya the national anthem, Ee Mungu nguvu yetu (O God of All Creation), is played not just before every sporting event but also before nearly every public gathering. And the ’95 Ryder Cup was a virtual anthemfest. Last year at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., the Spanish anthem was played for Seve Ballesteros; the Scottish for Bernard Gallacher, Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance; the British for Howard Clark, Nick Faldo, David Gilford and Mark James; the Swedish for Per-Ulrik Johansson; the German for Bernhard Langer; the Italian for Costantino Rocca; the Irish for Philip Walton; and the Welsh for Ian Woosnam. And, of course, The Star-Spangled Banner for all the guys on the U.S. side. The event started out more like a battle of the bands than a golf match.

In most countries, however, national anthems are reserved for international or championship games. Bemused by the Abdul-Rauf flap, North Carolina center Serge Zwikker, who is from the Netherlands, professes not to know the words to the Dutch anthem. « But maybe I could hum a few bars, » he adds hopefully.

Which is exactly what many entertainers—beginning, perhaps, with Robert Goulet, who blanked during a catastrophic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston fight in Lewiston, Maine, in 1965—have done after accepting the intimidating national anthem assignment. Most people at U.S. sporting events don’t even hum along or for that matter stand at attention. Members of the media file pregame notes to the office, peruse stat sheets or stay in the press room munching potato chips. Fans nosh on hot dogs, chat with their neighbors or look for Jack Nicholson. Those who are enthralled with the anthem have become so only because they have turned it into their personal fight song.

The athletes, in most cases, are indifferent. « It gets to the point where you start forgetting about the meaning because you do it so often, » says San Francisco Giants outfielder-first baseman David McCarty. Still, players offer some darned fine observations on the anthem. « I guess we sing it to give someone the opportunity to make 50 dollars, » says Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mark Portugal. Be serious, guys. « Maybe it’s because people are amazed you can play a kid’s game and make more money than the president, » says Detroit Pistons center Mark West. « You’ve got to celebrate that somehow. » Hey, come on now. « Personally, I use that time to scan the crowd for babes, » says Atlanta Hawks forward Matt Bullard. « That’s how I met my wife. » And St. Louis Cardinals reliever Dennis Eckersley offers this take: « The anthem is part of the game. It wouldn’t seem right, would it, if they didn’t play it? But I don’t like it when the Canadian teams are in town because then we have to listen to two anthems. »

Now that The Star-Spangled Banner is again an issue—as it was most potently during the late 1960s and early ’70s—in all its red-white-and-blue complexity, wouldn’t it be better for pro leagues to turn tail and start phasing it out before this gnarly matter comes around once more? After all, it’s not written anywhere that the national anthem must be played, not even, believe it or not, in the NBA operations manual. In Dallas, bible-thumping Mavericks owner Donald Carter has substituted God Bless America for The Star-Spangled Banner, and no one has protested. Isn’t America ready for a secular song to be installed as the official let’s-play-ball ditty?

Don’t bet on it. Though Americans rarely show the anthem proper respect, they seem to like the simple fact that it’s there. The Baltimore Orioles stopped playing The Star-Spangled Banner for one week during the 1954 season, hoping to use the song only on holidays and special occasions. In reaction the city council passed a resolution suggesting that the anthem be played before every game, and that’s why, four decades later, we’re obligated to hear the home fans turn that final « Oh, say … » into a cheer for the O’s. In ’66, when the Chicago White Sox tried to pinch-hit with God Bless America, so vehement was the backlash that the fans asked for a special vote on the issue, pledging on their ballots to sing the winning song loud and clear. (The national anthem received 74% of the vote.) Most revealing, after an Atlanta Falcons game in the mid-’70s the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium scoreboard mistakenly flashed PLEASE RISE AND JOIN IN SINGING OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM instead of THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING THE GAME. The crowd stood awkwardly for several minutes before the P.A. announcer told everyone to go home. Let’s face it: Americans are intimidated by the national anthem, fearful that some cosmic chandelier will come crashing on their heads if they put it out to pasture.

How about a compromise? How about sending a DH up for The Star-Spangled Banner? How about not playing it all the time and reserving it for the Final Four, the Super Bowl, the World Series and other big-time events? Perhaps then it would become meaningful to more people. Yes, it might be scary out there without the anthem to kick around every night. But the pregame song doesn’t have to be scrapped. Just mix it up, raise America’s pop-culture index with other offerings such as America the Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land.

But those are just suggestions. Positively, absolutely, bounce them off Mike Sullivan first.

Voir par ailleurs:

Baltimore Residents Blame Record-High Murder Rate On Lower Police Presence
December 31, 2017


This year, Baltimore has had well over 300 murders for the third year in a row. Some activists say the high murder rate is because police have backed off and relaxed patrols in neighborhoods like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested. Gray was a black man who died while he was in the back of a Baltimore police van in 2015. Reverend Kenji Scott lives in Baltimore. He’s held positions in local city government and is a pastor and community activist.

KINJI SCOTT: When you think about young people who are out here facing these economic challenges and are homeless and live in places that are uncertain and you’re a parent, you’re scared, not just for yourself really but for your children. I mean, the average age of a homicide victim in Baltimore City right now is 31 years old. We had a young man who attended one of the prime high schools, Poly. His name was Jonathan Tobash, and he was 19 years old, was a Morgan student. And he was killed on his way to the store. That’s the state of Baltimore right now.

FRAYER: What do you see? Is this something that happens in the middle of the night, or is this something that when you live there you see this?

SCOTT: You see this all the time. You’re talking about homicides in the middle of the night. No. The average homicide in Baltimore happens during the day. We have broad daylight shootings all over the city. You’ve had shootings and people have been shot, gunned down and killed in front of the police station.

FRAYER: After the death of Freddie Gray, yourself, families of victims, didn’t you want police to back off?

SCOTT: No. That represented our progressive, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians. But it did not represent the overall community because we know for a fact that around the time that Freddie Gray was killed, we start to see homicides increase. We had five homicides in that neighborhood while we were protesting. What I wanted to see happen was that people would build a trust relationship with our police department so that they would feel more comfortable with having conversations with the police about crime in their neighborhood because they would feel safer. So we wanted the police there. We wanted them engaging the community. We didn’t want them there beating the hell out of us. We didn’t want that.

FRAYER: Do you think your experience with high murder rate in Baltimore is unique?

SCOTT: No, it’s not. It’s not. I lost my brother in St. Louis in 2004. I just lost my cousin in Chicago. No, it’s not unique, and that’s the horrible thing.

FRAYER: It’s been three and a half years since Ferguson, Mo., since the killing of Michael Brown, since the Black Lives Matter movement was born to demand reforms to policing. What did they put on the table, and has it worked?

SCOTT: The primary thrust nationwide is what President Obama wanted to do – focus on building relationships with police departments in major cities where there has been a history of conflict. That hasn’t happened. We don’t see that. I don’t know a city that I’ve heard of – Baltimore for certain. We’ve not seen any changes in those relationships. What we have seen was that the police has distanced themselves, and the community has distanced themselves even further. So there is – the divide has really intensified. It hasn’t decreased. And of course, we want to delineate the whole concept of the culture of bad policing that exists. Nobody denies that. But as a result of this, we don’t see the policing – the level of policing we need in our community to keep the crime down in these cities that we’re seeing bleed to death.

FRAYER: Are you optimistic for 2018?

SCOTT: I’m not because as I look at the conclusion of 2017, these same cities – St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Chicago – these same chocolate (ph), these same black cities are still bleeding to death, and we’re still burying young men in these cities. I want to be hopeful. I’m a preacher. I want to be hopeful. But as it stands, no, not until we really have a real conversation with our frontline officers in the heart of our black communities that does not involve people who are, quote, unquote, « leaders. » We need the frontline police officers, and we need the heart of the black community to step to the forefront of this discussion. That’s what’s important. And that’s when we’re going to see a decrease in crime.

FRAYER: Reverend Kinji Scott in Baltimore, thank you very much.

SCOTT: Thank you.