This year has seen a remarkable renaissance of star athletes for the first time since the 1960s and 1970s using their hyperexalted platform to speak about politics. There’s only one person who can speak about these eras like no one else, one person who played a role in advising activist athletes from Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick. That would be legendary sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards. Here is an edited interview of my conversation with Dr. Edwards about the landscape for activist athletes in the age of Trump. People can listen to the interview in its entirety at the bottom of the page.
DZ: What are your impressions of the election results?
HE: I’m neither surprised nor chagrined at the outcome. The media, especially the mainstream media, in this country did not expose Trump because they never attacked him straight on, in terms of his racist, misogynistic, xenophobic policies. They gave him free time. Billions of dollars’ worth of free time. They didn’t expose him; they showcased him. And then, when I look at what was happening in American society, with black men, women, and children being shot down by police officers and nobody going to jail; when I looked at the way they treated the first African-American president and his family…. I never deluded myself into thinking that somehow we were in some post-racial America. Yes, a lot of people were also simply turned off by the degeneracy of the process, they didn’t see anybody that they could vote for who could make a difference. I think that’s unfortunate because I think Hillary would’ve made a difference in terms of Supreme Court appointments. The issue, now, for me, is what do we do about it? And at one level, it’s crystal clear that this situation can no longer be denied and we have to go to work.
DZ: Given how, as you put it, degenerate this whole election process has been, how do you think the Trump victory is going to affect the mood, the momentum, of what we’ve seen in terms of these athlete activists?
HE: I think it’s going to accelerate it, I don’t think it’s going to kill it. The media will run a whole bunch of black Uncle Tom Trump sycophants across the stage to try to explain how what he intends to do or might do is in the best interest of black people in the black community. I think that they should be dismissed out of hand. The so-called black, Christian preachers who so publicly supported Trump, these handkerchief-head Jesus pimps should be dismissed out of hand.
Malcolm [X] used to call them “house Negroes.” These are not house Negroes—these are outhouse Negroes who will be run across the stage to criticize athletes, to criticize other black people and they should be dismissed. These are people who are content to live in old master’s toilet as long as they can be close to him and his money when he comes in to use the toilet.
All of that is going to boil up, it’s going to be out there. But I think that athletes are going to continue to speak up and speak out. I think we’re going to get many more women athletes involved because if Trump does what he says he’s going to do, in terms of Roe v. Wade. This thing is going to ricochet throughout sports and I think that athletes will respond. I think we’re looking at an escalation in terms of athlete responses to this systematic racism and most certainly to the misogynistic racist that a majority white population has put into the White House.