Dear Mr. President,
First, I am appreciative of your presidency, and I am not ashamed to say that I voted for you. I advocated for you before the election, and this letter is not an expression of buyer’s remorse. In these turbulent early days of your presidency you have been able to accomplish some good things despite unprecedented opposition. Still, while there have been victories, there have also been unfortunate moments. A few events of this past week encapsulate, I think, why so many have a negative perception of your leadership.
This week you challenged the NFL owners and fans, and even the game itself – for exercising a constitutional right of free speech. Certainly, the owners have the right to fire the players, and the fans have a right to leave games in protest of their own. But is that what our sporting events have become? Will our leaders encourage us to punish those we disagree with simply for voicing their views? Though it is permitted, that isn’t the spirit of free speech. Sometimes things are lawful that are not profitable (1 Corinthians 10:23).
Likewise, in rescinding the invitation of Steph Curry to the White House, you made the issue personal, and forced many to choose between supporting you and supporting an NBA star. In making these kinds of statements, the effect is alienation and isolation. In this case, the personal conflict creates division especially along racial lines. Surely that is not the effect you desire.
In similar fashion, much of the entertainment community has fostered the same division, particularly in condemning you for your comments regarding the events in Charlottesville. What those critics fail to acknowledge is that even racists and bigots have a first-amendment right to voice their views, no matter how despicable those views might be. We are a country that was rooted in tolerance – not the fake tolerance so often demonstrated today – but a real understanding that those holding different views must be treated with respect, even if the views themselves aren’t worthy of respect.
I wish Colin Kaepernick had chosen a different medium to voice his displeasure. I disagree with how he handled that. But the platform was one he earned – or at least one that he was given based on his merit at that time, and shame on any of us who don’t use our platforms to do what we believe is right. Kneeling for his convictions doesn’t make him a son of a bitch (as you recently referred to NFL players who don’t stand during the anthem). It simply makes him an American who wanted to express his views – even if he did so in a disappointing and divisive way.
Steph Curry expressed in protest that he wouldn’t make the traditional champions’ visit to the White House. In my humble opinion, that was not a wise move, as it simply escalates disunity. But again, that was a platform Curry received based on his merit, and he has the right to use that platform as he desires. Now, of course, an invitation to the White House is not “earned,” it is given, and you certainly have the right to rescind the invitation. But wouldn’t it be beneficial to say, “I am disappointed that Steph Curry would not accept my invitation, however, he is an American who has the right to voice his concerns, and I will continue to look out for his best interests and for those of all Americans.”
As an American, I am saddened by the increasing division in our society. As a voter, I think much of it is avoidable, and as a follower of Christ, I am compelled to encourage you to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Wouldn’t it be beneficial for leaders like you – who set a tone for the country, to express that while you may not agree with the method of protest, you are glad we live in a country where such protests can be made? That seems to have been the message of your Charlottesville comments, and it seems to be what you believe. Communicate it broadly in a way that shows respect to all! Somebody has to tamp down the rhetoric, and create an environment where unity can blossom, and your platform allows you the opportunity to do that. There are words that unite and that heal. Rescinding an invitation and labeling those who are expressing their frustrations in the only way they know how as “sons of bitches” simply doesn’t build anyone up. It doesn’t bring people together.
Dear Mr. President, if you didn’t consider yourself a Christian, I wouldn’t be writing this, but Christians have a responsibility to challenge one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). So I urge you, Mr. President, please communicate in a way that would reflect the love and truth of Christ. There were certainly times when Jesus spoke harshly – especially when it came to the spiritually arrogant who were misrepresenting God and oppressing the people He created. Still, even in those instances, Jesus’ speech and conduct were characterized by speaking the truth in love. Jesus modeled gentleness in leadership, showing kindness and compassion along with His resoluteness and firm commitment to truth.
As an American, I love that you communicate directly and transparently to the American people using social media tools – you are nothing if not real and authentic, and none of us have to guess where you stand. But with every word you say you can build up and unite or you can cut down and divide. At some point those who cut and criticize others for their deficiencies will find themselves all alone, because we are all worthy of critique, we are all deficient, and there are none of us who are always worthy of respect. Please, Mr. President, have the positive impact that your platform allows you to have – speak the truth in love. Be kind and compassionate even to those who disagree. Consider Solomon’s wise exhortation: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Our country ought to reflect that greatest principle of our sports: to bring diverse people together around commonalities – common boundaries, common goals, and working together to respect those boundaries and meet those goals. As I watch and continue to pray for your presidency, I hope that the potential for good is realized – that you use your skills and platform for that grand expression of what one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, really looks like.
Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D
President, Calvary University