The Current

Sports is political, argues El Jones in the wake of Sidney Crosby controversy

"The very issue of playing the national anthem before games that aren't even international games is already politicized."
El Jones argues in a recent VICE article that hockey superstar Sidney Crosby should have stood up for black people who play and love hockey. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

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Last week, the latest Stanley Cup champions affirmed their decision to accept an invitation to visit the White House later this month. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins coach insists it's an apolitical event, but critics don't see it that way.

For team captain Sidney Crosby, a native of Cole Harbour, N.S., it should be political, argues former poet laureate of Halifax El Jones.

"Cole Harbour is quite notorious in terms of race relations,"  Jones tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

RelatedSidney Crosby Should Have Done Better

In 1989 and 1991, two serious racial incidents at the high school took place, known as the Cole Harbour riots.

Jones explains what came out of these race riots was an important report — The BLAC Report — which identified various racial inequities in the education system in Nova Scotia.

"This is, of course, in Sidney Crosby's lifetime. So this isn't ancient history," Jones says.

"So for people who are, sort of, arguing that Sidney Crosby can't possibly know about race or that race has nothing to do with Sidney Crosby because he's just some Canadian hockey player and these are only issues that exist in the U.S. that's simply not the case when you look at where he's from and where he grew up."

Buffalo Bills players are seen taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem but NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the league's message is being distorted and is not a protest against the U.S. anthem or flag. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Associated Press)

Jones says it's understandable people have different opinions when it comes to the reaction coming out of the hockey team accepting the White House invitation but argues sports has always been political.

"The very issue of playing the national anthem before games that aren't even international games is already politicized, right?"

Jones points to examples where flags are brought out in football games, veterans are honoured — all political — and seen as normal.

"But then the minute you have black athletes that are saying, 'Well, okay, this anthem is playing and police are shooting black people down in the streets so I don't think I want to stand for that, all of a sudden that's considered political," Jones says.

The rhetoric of who's politicizing sports is another point Jones says needs to be addressed.

"Trump has tweeted 18 times or something about this issue while Puerto Rico is in complete chaos. You know, he's tweeted out very favorable tweets about the NHL: 19,000 people standing for the anthem. So he clearly sees this as a political issue himself," Jones explains.

"He immediately tweeted when the Pittsburgh Penguins said they were going to the White House. He's tweeted multiple times hostilely to black athletes so it's already a political issue. It can't be avoided."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese, Yamri Taddese and Halifax network producer, Mary-Catherine McIntosh.