In her Sunday post on The Atlantic magazine's website, Jemele Hill makes a charge she can't support with the headline "The War on Black Athletes." She claims President Donald Trump is warring on black athletes, but she offers no broad-based arguments in support of her accusation. Hill's post is Part 6 in The Atlantic's "Unthinkable" series, "50 Moments That Define An Improbable Presidency."
Hill, a former ESPN SportsCenter grenade thrower and an avowed Trump hater who once called him a "white supremacist," only deals with a single athlete — Colin Kaepernick — to make her case. Her headline writer mentions "athletes," but it's really only Kaepernick.
"Trump isn’t the first president to show such overt interest in sports, but he’s the only president in recent memory to attack athletes for their politics," reads Hill's subtitle.
Hill's singular focus on Kaepernick states that she knew on March 20, 2017 he would never again play in the NFL. That was the day when President Trump, for the first time, "publicly eviscerated" Kaepernick" during a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. She says Trump had gone after athletes many times on the campaign trail in 2016. " ... (B)ut with the power of the Oval Office behind him, this became an even more potent takedown."
Trump said that anthem protesters maybe shouldn't be in this country, but other than Kaepernick he did not identify them by name or by race. Though most protesters have been African-Americans, they also had the support of whites like Travis Kelce of Kansas City and Chris Long of Philadelphia. Numerous white players, like Aaron Rodgers, verbally supported Kaepernick. On social media, Tom Brady "liked" stories about Nike's Kaepernick Just Do It campaign.
Getting side-tracked from her original argument, Hill refers to Trump’s Louisville remarks as "essentially a smoking gun for Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL. She says depositions of NFL owners and others, reported on by The Wall Street Journal, demonstrate that Trump "successfully scared the bejesus out of NFL owners." Hill says Trump might have gift-wrapped a legal victory for Kaepernick in his collusion case by urging NFL owners not to allow anthem protesting.
All of this makes a tidy, little anecdotal case for Hill based on Trump's words about one athlete. But where's the beef? Where are the other black athletes Trump is supposedly warring on? Who are they? We're left to guess because Hill never makes any sort of case for black athletes as a group who have been attacked by the president.
A better case can be made for athletes who have attacked Trump. Within Trump's first 10 days in office, Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson lashed out at the new president and called for the return of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump has not been linked to any attacks on Wilson, who has not protested during the anthem.
Basketball superstar LeBron James came out in support of Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election, because she would carry on Barack Obama's legacy, he said. James has frequently attacked Trump, calling him a "bum" as Hill notes, and stating publicly that the president doesn't give a f*** about people. Last summer, James told CNN's Don Lemon that he would refuse to ever be in Trump's presence, and that prompted a response from the president criticizing James' intelligence. But it was James who started the unpleasantries.
Golden State Warriors' star Steph Curry called the president an "asset" without the et. USA Today reported that Curry's comments prompted Trump to state that the NBA champion Warriors would not be received at the White House. Curry's teammate Kevin Durant also criticized Trump during an appearance on James' website, The Uninterrupted.
If Jemele Hill had written about Trump feuding with progressive black athletes, she could have made a strong case. However, the evidence doesn't support her claim that he is warring on black athletes in general.