When the Boston Red Sox went to the White House last week to be honored by President Trump for their 2018 World Series victory, about 10 of the 25 players boycotted. All were Hispanic or African-American. “It’s personal, bro,” catcher Christian Vazquez explained to The Washington Post. Like Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who also didn’t go, Vazquez is from Puerto Rico and doesn’t appreciate how Trump has treated the U.S. island devastated by Hurricane Maria. In the Trump era, these boycotts have become the norm. The University of Virginia men’s basketball team recently refused a White House invitation. Trump angrily disinvited the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 after black players said they would not show up. They did not want to shake the hand of the president who demanded that the NFL fire the mostly black “sons of bitches” who knelt in protest during the national anthem.
Sports, in its finest moments, can enable Americans to forget and even transcend race. But our games have always been a mirror of society, showing us where race relations stand—and what we see today is not pretty. The Trump presidency has been like a magnitude-8.0 earthquake that has widened fault lines of race, class, and culture into chasms. Across these rifts, Americans view each other with growing disdain and mutual incomprehension. How can you show such disrespect to our president? shouts the tribe on one side. How can you not see how deliberately divisive your president is? responds the other. You have to wonder how much uglier this will get, and how it ends. At a rally in Florida last week, the president pointedly noted that border security agents can’t use weapons on the migrants asking for asylum at the border. “How do we stop these people?” Trump asked. “Shoot them!” one rallygoer shouted. The crowd erupted in cheers and laughter, and the president of the United States grinned.