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

 

More articles by:

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.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail