Allon: The Patriots aren’t just an NFL team — they’re its kneeling players

If you ever doubted the importance of professional sports in the American imagination, this weekend’s events are a stark reminder that it is more powerful than ever.

All weekend long, professional athletes exercised their First Amendment rights — and punched back at a wildly swinging president who questioned their patriotism — by kneeling and locked or staying in the locker room during the national anthem. And some league champions refusing to celebrated at the White House.

Watching football games on Sunday reminded me of the rallies from the 1960s when conscientious objectors burned their draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War.

It is amazing to witness the civil war manufactured by a President who really should be more focused on avoiding war with North Korea and figuring out how his dysfunctional party will ever get any of his agenda passed in Congress.

The NBA even got into the presidential scrum when superstars Stephen Curry and Lebron James dissed the Potus. The King from Cleveland landed the most piercing blow when he replied to the President’s tweet about what an honor it is for championship teams to be invited to the White House.

“It was [an honor] until you became President,” wrote King James.


Hard to know where this dust-up leads, but it sure is fun to watch athletes and football team owners kick back against the foolish tirade by Trump.

This weekend, a film opened that also reminds us of the power of sports — “The Battle of the Sexes,” a great tale from 1973.

The film chronicles the early career of women’s tennis great Billie Jean King and her fight for equal rights for women in sport. It is an inspiring and encouraging tale. King was unwilling to let the male dominated U.S. Tennis Association pay women champions less than one eighth of what men received.

King led a renegade group of women’s tennis players in forming a new league — the Women’s Tennis Association — so that they could try to achieve pay parity. They succeeded when a tobacco company funded the Virginia Slims women’s tour.

But even more dramatically, King soundly defeated a male chauvinist hustler named Bobby Riggs in the much-hyped “Battle of the Sexes.” Her win proved that women tennis players can, indeed, beat male tennis players and did more to advance the cause of women’s rights than our slow moving government ever did.

King was a leading feminist and also became one of the first openly gay high-profile athletes and her barrier-breaking there was also a huge leap in American consciousness of gay rights.

Athletes are given a huge platform in our celebrity-loving society and it is great to see them use their status to expose the remaining injustices in our society.

Tom Allon is the president of City & State.Reach him at tallon@cityandstateny.com.

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