FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"I Am Totally Against This War"

by DAVID ZIRIN

Howard Cosell once said, “Rule Number One of the ‘Jockocracy’ is that pro-athletes and politics should never mix. But in these times of war and resistance, a new wave of sports stars are demanding to be heard. In Major League Baseball, Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado has come out against the occupation of Iraq. At the Olympics, the Iraqi Soccer Team publicly refused to be a symbol for a war they opposed. In the NBA, all-star guard Steve Nash and forward Josh Howard have said that they were “for shooting jumpers not people.” Now we can add NBA center/power forward Etan Thomas to the list of those athletic anti-war rebels who are rewriting the rules of the “Jockocracy”.

An outspoken opponent of racism and the death penalty, Thomas is a poet who puts his ideas to verse at rallies and panel discussions throughout the DC Metro area.

Now, in an ‘Edge of Sports’ exclusive, the Washington Wizards’ fifth year player turns his attention and anger toward George W. Bush’s war against Iraq. This story is breaking here only because, according to Thomas, the Washington Times was preparing to profile his views until the story was killed by “higher ups at the right-leaning paper.

“I am totally against this war,” Thomas says adamantly. “But at the same time, I am completely for the troops. Republicans tried to paint the picture that if you were against the war, you were somehow unpatriotic, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. What’s truly unpatriotic is misleading an entire nation into war under false pretenses.”

Thomas shakes his head at Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism of John Kerry’s call for a more “sensitive” war in the Middle East. “[Bush and Cheney] missed the entire point. They should have been more sensitive to the 1000+ American soldiers that lost their lives because of the ignorance of the White House. They should have been more sensitive to the fact that these were human lives they were ruining. I wonder what they would say to the mothers who will never see their sons again, or the children who will never see their fathers again.. He has sent so many young children, who only signed up for the Army as a way to go to college, into a war that didn’t need to happen. And people wonder why the casualties are so high. 18 year-old babies are over there losing their lives everyday, and he has the audacity to say that ‘we are turning the corner.'”

Bush’s arrogance has been a factor compelling the burly rebounder to speak out. He sees a quagmire developing because of Bush’s oft-criticized “go it alone style. “He was so insistent about going against the U.N. and now we are bearing the burden alone. He said that he didn’t need the help of any other country. Now, we need help and no other country wants to help us because of his unwillingness to allow the U.N. to do their job. The U.N. said that they didn’t have enough evidence to invade Iraq, but Bush insisted that they had these weapons of mass destruction, and come to find out, that was untrue. Now we are in way over our heads and progress is moving at a snail’s pace.”

Thomas also expresses frustration at the media’s role in not questioning the drive to war. Fox News, role in particular leaves him both astounded and annoyed. “It amazes me that know-it-alls like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity can actually defend him. O’Reilly said that he was simply given bad info, and he thought he was doing the right thing. Well, it’s his job to know. That excuse — ‘I didn’t know any better’ — might work when you are seven years-old, but not when you are the President of the United States.”

As with the death penalty, Thomas is putting his feelings into poetry.

Below is an excerpt from Thomas’ poem on the Iraq War:

Out of the ashes of Iraq come soldiers dressed in fatigues of fire
Wearing helmets secured in smoke
They’ve choked off the lies spewed out of the mouth of a burning bush
The true warrior’s existing wake
Who’s flames burned them at the stake
Cremated their bodies
And stuffed them in an urn wrapped in red, white, and blue….

Rummaging through a forest set ablaze by one lethal match
With witty catch phrases forever attached to the side of their kingdom Operation Iraqi Freedom Links to Al Qaeda Eminent threats
And weapons of mass destruction…..

They’ve been skillfully thrown into the lion’s den
Out of the frying pan and into the furnace
Their courage exceeds any measuring stick
But they can hear the footsteps of death creeping around the corner
For they’ve been led into the eye of the storm
Transformed into peacekeepers Lending a helping hand for the poorly planned post-war strategy……

Thomas knows he may feel some heat for speaking out against Bush’s war but feels an obligation to do so. “I have never had a problem standing up for what I believe in. I admire the athletes of the past, like Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. Athletes that used their position as a platform to speak out on social issues and stand up for a cause. Basketball is not my life. To quote Bill Russell, ‘You’re not going to reduce me to an entertainer. I’m a man who stands up for what I believe in and you’re going to respect me for it.’ A quote I live by is, ‘I speak my mind because biting my tongue would make my pride bleed.'”

When athletes like Etan Thomas step forward and make their voices heard, they do more than rewrite the rules of Cosell’s “Jockocracy”. They reclaim the humanity of all athletes normally presented as having muscles and tattoos but not minds. They also provide an outlet for the millions of people who oppose the priorities of this government yet embattled and embittered, feel they stand alone. When 6’ 10″ Etan Thomas stands up, you feel like you can straighten your back and walk tall by his side.

Dave Zirin has a book coming out, What’s My Name, Fool: sports and resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books) comes out in spring 2005. To have his column sent to you every week, just e-mail edgeofsports-subscribe@zirin.com.

Contact the author at editor@pgpost.com

 

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail