Where have all of the heroes gone?
News broke yesterday that the GOP had launched a new site that lists (among other things) 16 Heroes who represented the currently de-fanged Republican party through history. Among them: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and… Jackie Robinson? The former Dodger who, in the 1960s, along with Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali (née Cassius Clay) single-handedly brought the issue of race to the forefront of the intersection of sports and culture? Oh, please.
Talk about revisionism. This smacks of a party so completely lacking in power, substance, and direction that it’s hoping to tap into America’s love of all things baseball and apple pie, and that maybe, just maybe, it can swing a few more minority votes by claiming a revered African-American as one of its own. As if the GOP’s cynical appointment of Maryland Republican Michael Steele-the current GOP mouthpiece- wasn’t bad enough…
Not that the GOP didn’t do its homework. Sort of. Robinson definitely had a one-time fondness for conservative and then-future Vice President Nelson Rockefeller when he ran for the New York governor’s office-Robinson even helped him on the campaign trail. But whether he agreed with the man ideologically is a matter of debate, especially after seeing Robinson’s autobiography I Never Had It Made, where the Hall of Famer states:
“Every chance I got while I was campaigning, I said plainly what I thought of the right-wing Republicans and the harm they were doing. I felt the GOP was a minority party in term of numbers of registered voters and could not win unless they updated their social philosophy and sponsored candidates and principles to attract the young, the black, and the independent voter. By and large, Republicans had ignored blacks and sometimes handpicked a few servile leaders in the black community to be their token ‘niggers.’ How would I sound trying to go all out to sell Republicans to black people? They’re not buying. They know better.”
They do know better. And this not-so-thinly-veiled attempt at winning over a few more minority votes come next election cycle shouldn’t go unnoticed. It exposes the Republican Party for what it’s become (and NOT what it’s always been): extremist, fear-mongering, powerless, and woefully out of touch.
Now, if only one of today’s sports figures–whether conservative or liberal–would go out on a limb like Robinson and his ’60s brethren to put their career on the line for their own ideological outlook. In the last decade, a few have, mostly after announcing their retirement like (ahem) Charles Barkley. But in general, today’s athletes seem to lack the interest-and the inclination-to want to press the status quo. Is it apathy? Greed? Perhaps. But in many ways, even under a liberal Obama administration, there’s just as much at stake today as there was in 1964 when Robinson was so outspoken in his opposition of Republican shit-stirrer Barry Goldwater.
While yesterday’s GOP announcement is painfully transparent, I’d give anything to hear a notable athlete’s stance on something political or social. Humor me for a second and just imagine what it’d do for America’s undecided if ESPN gave airtime to Tom Brady to ruminate on the current state of U.S. corporate imperialism. Or Venus Williams debate the merits of school vouchers. What about Floyd Mayweather weighing in on the current health care crisis? Or Kobe Bryant waxing philosophical on our role in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East? Hell, at this point, I’d welcome it if they just debated something other than how they “put points on the board.” Let’s not let the GOP-or any party-co-op history’s, um, game-changing personalities for their own political agenda. Unless, of course, it’s the truth.