Sep 25th, 2017
Take a knee – golfer Peter Malnati speaks out
Golf enters the debate that is dividing America
Words: Tim Southwell Photography: Getty Images Styling: GolfPunk
It's not often you see a golfer enter a political debate. They tend to steer clear of controversy and concentrate on the thing they're good at – golf.
It can be frustrating for us fans of the game because a lot of people think golf is sport's last defiant bastion of conservativism, and the refusal of golf/golfers to enter a debate that affects millions but doesn't directly affect them only intensifies this sense of 'them and us'.
So it is heartening to see PGA Tour player Peter Malnati speak out passionately and eloquently in support of the black athletes demonstrating their discontent about racism in America.
The national anthem protests – sparked by San Fransisco 49er quarter back Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem demonstration a year ago – have seen dozens of sporting stars weighing in on the issue.
But it's really kicked off now after President Donald Trump's weekend comments on players taking a knee: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
NBA players, including LeBron James and Chris Paul came out and criticised Trump's inflammatory rhetoric (Does he have any other kind of rhetoric? – Ed), defending the athletes' democratic right to protest.
Musician Pharrell Williams, performing in Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of far-right marches in August, knelt in front of the crowd saying: “If I want to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state, that’s what this flag is for”, a reference to the stars and stripes, and to freedom of speech. He also called for “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of belief, freedom to live.”
"Though athletic rivalries divide us playfully, sport unite us," Malnati said on Twitter. "It has an amazing power to transcend differences that everyday life cannot."
Malnati asked his followers to look within and question exactly what the flag means to them, and for anyone criticising the kneelers, to put their protests in a different context.
"Those who kneel during the national anthem aren't disrespecting the heroes who sacrificed to defend the United States," Malnati said. "Those who kneel are pointing out that as a nation, we are not doing a good job of upholding the values for which people sacrificed.
"The current administration in Washington has made it very clear they don't want the United States to be a nation that cares for those on the margins of society. Or a nation that celebrates freedom and equality."
Malnati, who's fully exempt on tour for the 2018 season, added: "I stand for freedom. I stand for 'justice for all.' I stand for equality, for empathy, and for compassion.
"I kneel to hubris and greed. Therefore, I take a knee for the flag that represents this administration. Not because I don't love this country, but because I do."
No one has exclusive rights to the interpretation of what a national anthem represents, not the left and not the right. If you don't feel that you or other people are being adequately represented by your nation then you have every right to peacefully withdraw your public support for it.
It's called democracy. Whether Donald Trump likes it or not.