It was no surprise that a tiny minority of American athletes at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympic Games self-indulged in irrational anti-American patriotism mimicking extremist progressive politics, echoed in the liberal media.
Among the usual suspects was the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, led by its purple-haired exhibitionist for social justice and LBGTQ rights, Megan Rapinoe. The team continued its habit of kneeling during the National Anthem (with the exception of its standout playmaker Carli Lloyd, who stood respectfully). Had they focused more on their play, they might have won the Gold instead of losing their opening match to Sweden, losing to Canada in the semi-finals and settling for the Bronze. (For the first time ever, I rooted against a U.S. Team.)
Incidentally, their tawdry behavior isn’t protected by the First Amendment, which prohibits our government from abridging freedom of speech. The U.S. Olympic Team isn’t a government endeavor. It’s financed by individual and corporate contributions. The U.S. and International Olympic Committees permitted such actions this year, although those committees could have forbidden political protests as they have in the past. So, the soccer kneelers were taking no risk. Liberals praise the protestors and woke corporations pay them for endorsements. Rapinoe does “Subway” commercials. Their behavior was just pointlessly disrespectful. Public awareness of radical “social justice” causes is already oversaturated. (By contrast, imagine the fate of Chinese Olympians who would dare to publicly disrespect their totalitarian state.)
A handful of other American athletes also flaunted their disapproval of our country, while the vast majority honored the flag and our National Anthem with enthusiasm. There were many exuberant celebrations from Gold Medal winners taking a victory lap around the track and other venues with an American flag draped over their shoulders. Tears of joy and pride flowed from their eyes above the medals that hung around the necks of so many who stood respectfully on the podium as the flag was raised and the “Star Spangled Banner” was played.
The U.S. Men’s Basketball Team took the Gold, led by the spectacular play of Kevin Durant. He and other players embraced the flag with gusto after their defeat of France in the finals, replacing the Black Lives Matters banners that were featured during the 2020 NBA season in the COVID bubble. The U.S. Women’s team also won the Gold but, compared to the men, American flags were conspicuously absent from their post-game celebration. I wondered why. Incidentally, except for Sue Bird, every member of both the men’s and women’s teams on the court in their victory game was a person of color. How could that be if America were truly “systemically racist?”
The bathing suits of the U.S. Women’s swim team weren’t just red, white and blue, they were full-blown American Flag replicas. The warm-up suits of all our athletes were emblazoned with the letters “U.S.A” and bore American flag patches.
Individual excellence in the performance of athletes is a big part of the Olympics. That’s why we cheer their new Olympic records. But the Olympics is much more about teams. Relay teams, team sports and, most of all, the collective performance of national teams identified by their flags and national anthems. Divisive political protests are a distraction and undermine team spirit and comradery. Moreover, they’re a contradiction of the players’ participation in uniforms bearing the flag.
In the opening ceremony, 11,000 athletes representing 206 counties or delegations marched in behind the flag of their country, grouped in teams, wearing team uniforms. The closing ceremony began with a procession of every single flag which were then formed by their bearers in a huge circle on the stadium field.
The medal standings are grouped by nation and published every day. Multitudes worldwide watched on TV, rooting for the athletes on their national team. If this weren’t an international team competition, public interest would plummet. There was no team representing the United Nations. This year, the U.S. finished first in total medals with 113, and led in every medal category: Gold, 39; Silver, 41; and Bronze, 33. China was second with 38 Golds; and host-country Japan third with 27.
According to a recent poll by I&I/TIPP, 79% of the American public doesn’t support anti-flag protests by athletes at the Olympics and believes athletes should “publicly respect the American flag on the international level,” including 61% of blacks, 93% of Republicans (no surprise) and even 72% of Democrats.
I didn’t see any foreign athletes disrespecting their countries’ flag or national anthem. Theatrical political protesting isn’t an official sport at the Olympic Games. Athlete activists should express their political views on their own time and expense. With the Olympics moving to Paris in 2024, athletes so inclined could make a sincere display of principle and commitment by sacrificing their years of dedication and training for their sport by publicly boycotting the American team. Those vacancies would be quickly filled by folks who truly take pride in this country.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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