Time to Kneel

Arthur Caplan,Dominic Sisti, and Larissa Mogano call on professional athletes to protest the Trump Administration’s policies concerning migrant children at the United States-Mexico border.


In post-Trump America cruelty, ignorance, arrogance, and reckless Twitter rants now define American values.  The latest example is Trump’s decision to hold infants and children—taken away from their mothers and fathers—in cages in makeshift detention camps.  While he says the child abuse has stopped, there are at least 2000 children no one in his administration seems to know how to reunite with their families. The President and his advisers have shown themselves willing to use infants and children as pawns to get the wall and the restrictive legislation he wants.

Trump’s views on abusing children are not the same as his views on the national anthem played at football games.  That ceremony is morally sacrosanct on Trump’s moral scale.  If you protest or avoid standing at attention at an NFL game, then Trump says you are a son of a bitch who ought to be fired or get out of the country.  In the Trumpian ethical worldview locking children in pens in abandoned Walmarts is good— protesting injustice by kneeling at a sporting event is unconscionable. Only a moral moron could espouse these values.

Image Description: Washington Redskins football players standing at the side of the field during the US National Anthem. Six players are kneeling. Journalists and photographers surround the team with cameras.  
Photo Credit:By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA – Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling, CC BY-SA 2.0,  September 2017. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62737497

But what to do to help children and their parents reunite?  What to do to prevent future child abuse?  What to do to affirm the moral sanctity of children around the world? Time for athletes to act.

Major League Baseball—where about one third of the athletes are citizens of other nations, many from Latin America—should publicly renounce Trump’s child abuse. Players, managers, owners, fans should organize to kneel in solidarity with immigrants and asylum seekers currently imprisoned away from their children. FIFA World Cup athletes, who have the attention of the entire globe right now, should do the same.

Trump apparently hates athletic protests more than anything his political or pundit critics have to say.  So, time to take advantage of that fact and put it to use to protect vulnerable infants, children and families.

The National Football League has cowered to Trump’s cynical attacks on free speech and reasonable protest against police violence.  Time for Major League Baseball and FIFA World Cup athletes to use their power and prominence to help set the moral equation in the right direction.  Trump fears the ‘infestation’ – a term right from the Nazi playbook – of America by people from Central and South America. Other nations such as Italy and Hungary are starting to slide toward indifference (or worse) to children and families seeking asylum or seeking to immigrate.

One way to fumigate racism from America and the world is for powerful influential groups to organize a protest.  Now is the time for prominent sports figures to kneel, sit, or raise a fist when the world is watching. Trump won’t like it.


Arthur Caplan is the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine. @ArthurCaplan

Dominic Sisti is the Director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care and assistant professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. @domsisti

Larissa Mogano is a community organizer in Philadelphia and one of the founding members of Tuesdays with Toomey.

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