Sport molded my character – and Trump has learned none of its lessons

The best athletes are living embodiments of traits the president is sorely lacking: discipline, hard work, focus, teamwork and sportsmanship

Donald Trump’s presidency has made one thing agonizingly clear: he doesn’t understand the meaning of sports in America any better than he knows the words to God Bless America. He doesn’t understand athletes, fans, teamwork, or even locker room talk. But as with most things, he doesn’t let his woeful lack of knowledge interfere with his presidential decisions or proclamations, as when he recently accused Canada of burning down the White House in the War of 1812 ... 55 years before there was a Canada. His brand of vacuous but venomous thinking is now being directed at athletes. His disinviting of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl winners from a White House celebration because of their lack of respect for the national anthem – even though no one on the Eagles team knelt in the entire season – is only one of many flagrant fouls he’s committed against the sports community, from bullying NFL owners to not inviting to the White House the Minnesota Lynx, last season’s WNBA champions. In the past, Trump has tried to rally popular support by ranting against an imaginary “war on Christmas,” but it’s his own very real War on Sports that may be the bridge too far.

Sports have a special place in American culture and values. And our devotion to sports is not just as fans cheering for our local team or athlete to triumph, we also see them as a valuable tool to teach our children basic morals and manners. As Billie Jean King said, “Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose – it teaches you about life.” For many, sports are the less formal companion to religion. At their best, athletes are living embodiments of discipline, hard work, focus, teamwork, and sportsmanship. We watch them, even when they’re bruised, battered, and bloody, pushing the boundaries of physical limitations, setting records, inspiring the rest of us to go further than we thought possible.

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