Steve Deane's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column celebrates New Zealand's rich tradition of combining important political protest with sporting excellence
Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is most famous for very publicly outing herself as a ‘never Trumper’. Or, more accurately, a ‘not my president-er’.
“I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” the gold medallist from the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics said when asked about how she felt about competing at PyeongChang in February.
Vonn’s stance outraged many conservatives in America, with some even celebrating when she injured her back in her next race.
Conservative propaganda machine Fox News took time out from ignoring the fact America’s president has endorsed an accused sex offender in a senate election to eviscerate the upstart downhiller.
Vonn’s ex boyfriend, Tiger Woods, Fox pointed out, had played golf with Trump just last week (hardly making him a member of an exclusive group).
“Perhaps that is why they broke up,” one pundit offered.
While it wouldn’t be the first relationship to fracture under the strain of excessive golfing, given Vonn and Woods split up almost two years ago, it seems an unlikely cause in this instance.
Another female Fox pundit opined, utterly without irony, that Vonn was just another empty 'Hollywood' type. Again, this rather ignored the fact that there aren’t too many skiable slopes in Los Angeles. Not to mention that Vonn is an athlete not an actor, even if (fun fact) she did appear in an episode of Law & Order in 2010.
Sadly Fox’s point, inelegantly and inaccurately made as it was, does hold some water. While Vonn might feel America's president doesn't represent her, she has little choice but to represent him.
Fellow citizens are like family: Unless we are the Minister of Immigration, we can’t choose them.
No doubt the members of the Kiwi Winter Olympics team would rather be competing for Lucy Lawless and Max Key than Don Brash and Winston Peters. But they don’t get that choice. They’ll already be racing, jumping, and sliding for Peter Thiel, Donghua Liu, and Russell Crowe. Pretty soon they might have no choice but to compete for the honour of Kim Dotcom.
They don’t have a choice in that matter. What they can do, though, is use their platform as athletes to point out things they think suck.
While some hold that the ski slope and half pipe is no place for political expression, New Zealand has a fine tradition of citizens using their sport as a vehicle for important protest.
In 1970, our national rugby union forced South Africa to back down on not allowing Māori to tour with the All Blacks.
All Blacks flanker Josh Kronfeld stood up against the tyranny of French nuclear testing in the Pacific by drawing on his hat. Sonny Bill decided not to stand for exorbitant transaction fees when using an ATM. Just two weeks ago, thousands of Tongans took to the streets to make an important geopolitical point about a referee failing to refer an important decision upstairs.
We are not a nation to suffer in silence. As a people, we stand with Lindsey Vonn, sit with Colin Kaepernick, and still insist there is value in bringing back Buck. That’s who we are.
Sadly for Lindsey Vonn, she represents a country that democratically elected a first class creep for president. There's no getting around that. But good on her for pointing out that it sucks.