How Trump’s EO Has Affected Pro Athletes

7 mins read

Mo Farah has lived an incredible life. He was born in Somalia and moved to Great Britain at the age of eight, speaking little English at the time. Like many young British boys, Farah dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player, but found out his talent was in track. At the age of 14, he won his first English school-league title in cross country. This title drew the attention of Eddie Kulukundis, a philanthropist, who recognized Farah’s potential to do great things for England. Kulukundis paid Farah’s nationalization fees, and since then, Farah has gone on to become the most decorated track and field athlete in Great Britain’s history.
Farah is also perhaps the most visible and successful Muslim athlete in the sports world today. He has been very vocal about his Muslim faith throughout his career. He credits passages from the Qur’an for inspiring him to push himself to his world-champion level of performance. Farah is also a legal United States resident. He, his wife, and his children currently live in Oregon, where many of the world’s elite Track and Field athletes live and train.
Farah fits many labels to many people around the world. To his wife, he is a husband. To his children, he is a father. To Portlandians, he is a neighbor. To his countrymen, he is an Olympic hero. To Muslims, he is an inspiration. To the Queen of England, he is a Knight.
However, to President Donald Trump, he is a “potential terrorist.”
Farah recently tweeted that he will have to tell his children he may not be able to come home due to Trump’s recent executive order. Even if he is safe for now, there is no telling what executive orders may come next from the oval office.
Farah is among many athletes who could possibly be affected by Trump’s recent executive order, which banned natives of seven majority-muslim countries from entering the United States. Luol Deng and Thon Maker are refugees of the Second Sudanese Civil War who may also face travel issues going forward. Both are successful NBA players. Deng is a two-time all-star and has twice led the league in minutes played per game. Maker is a rookie who was the first player drafted out of high school since 2005, and recently made his first career start. Both have life stories that we typically celebrate in our country. They escaped their war-torn homes, eventually made their ways to America, and worked hard until becoming millionaires. However, in Trump’s America, we have lost empathy for refugees like these two.
Trump’s executive order has been met with backlash across the world of sports, with many athletes and coaches realizing that they could not simply “stick to sports” anymore.
“If we’re trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, by really going against the principles of what our country is about, and creating fear, it’s the wrong way to go about it,” said Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, whose team blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals last year. Kerr has been personally affected by terrorism in the past. His father was serving as president of the American University of Beirut when he was assassinated by terrorists in 1984.
Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, also condemned the ban, also noting how poorly it was implemented with seemingly no notice. Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry was more to the point in his criticism of the ban.
“It’s bullshit,” said Lowry. He went on to urge other athletes and coaches to speak out against the ban.
In response to the ban, Iran has retaliated and banned U.S. citizens from entering their country as well. This is a problem for American basketball players Joseph Jones and J.P. Prince, who were playing professionally in Iran but are now stranded in Dubai.
“It doesn’t look like they can finish the season in Iran. It’s not good to be out of a job. Secondarily, all their things are in Iran. They can’t go back and get them. It’s been difficult,” said Eric Fleisher, the agent for both players. Jones and Prince stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary if they are unable to return.
Shedding light on athletes affected by the travel ban may hopefully bring a humanized aspect to the issue that many have not been exposed to. Like the thousands of others affected, they have families, friends, careers, and lives that they may simply not be able to return to because of an executive order suddenly passed by Trump and his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Those not personally affected by Trump’s travel ban are likely the target of his other policies. Many professional baseball players are Latin American immigrants, a demographic demonized since day one of the Trump campaign. Most NBA and NFL players are African-Americans who will see their voting rights tightened and will likely have less discrimination protection under the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department. As President Trump continues to push his agenda, we may see more opposition from athletes at all levels of competition.

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