“My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium,” wrote transgender BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe in a March 2020 Facebook post. Wolfe, a male, is now that much closer to making his dream come true after he was selected on Monday to be an alternate for Team USA’s women’s BMX freestyle event at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Leaving aside the fact that Wolfe is a man and should not be competing against women, his 2020 statement makes one wonder why he would even be picked as an Olympic athlete, since he clearly has no respect for the country he will be representing.
It turns out this doesn’t matter much, since the only pushback Wolfe has received is coming from conservative media, with others either not caring at all or praising him for “making history” as a trans athlete.
Another Olympic Protest
More than 50 years ago, two American track athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, made their own acts of political protest on the Olympic podium. Both men raised their black-gloved fists and lowered their heads during the American National Anthem at the Mexico City 1968 Olympics. The iconic photo of the two men outstretching their arms into black power fists captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and great racial unrest.
Smith and Carlos, winners of the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter sprint, respectively, were also dressed in symbolic protest. They wore black socks and no shoes to symbolize black American poverty and a black glove to express black strength and unity. Smith also wore a scarf for black pride, and Carlos beads, in memory of lynching victims.
A wave of boos “rippled” through the spectators as the pair descended from the podium and left the field. Two days later, Smith and Carlos were suspended from the team by the U.S. Olympic Committee because the men violated the International Olympic Committee’s strict rule prohibiting political statements and protests (a rule that is still active today).
Upon returning home, the men were slammed by the public and the media, including some members of the black media, for not showing respect for the United States on the world stage. Indeed, a large number of Americans, including Americans who believed in the civil rights movement, viewed the protest as an insult to the United States.
“East Germans, Russians, even Cubans, all stand at attention when The Star-Spangled Banner or any other national anthem is played,” wrote a Time Magazine journalist in 1968, contrasting other nation’s respect for the flag with Carlos and Smith’s lack thereof.
Sports editor of the “Baltimore Afro-American” Sam Lacy, who had been instrumental during the push to integrate Major League Baseball two decades earlier, wrote that he was embarrassed by the Nazi “heil-like salute,” which he said was “childish and in extremely poor taste.”
None of this is to downplay the very real racial discrimination that existed in 1968, or to comment on whether Carlos and Smith should have raised their fists. It merely underscores that in that day, even those with severe criticisms of their country maintained those alongside honor and respect.
A Decline In Patriotism
John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and Chelsea Wolfe represent a major shift in the United States. What is the bigotry Wolfe is fighting? Is it even remotely comparable to what black Americans were facing during the civil rights movement (especially since burning the flag is far more extreme than the black power fist)? Wolfe certainly cannot claim he is being discriminated against as a transgender athlete, since he is being allowed to participate in women’s sports.
It’s not clear why Wolfe wants to burn the American flag at the podium, and he doesn’t really have to answer this question since many Americans don’t seem to care.
In 1968, by contrast, the American media was so thirsty to know why Carlos and Smith were protesting the United States that Carlos had to tell a group of reporters in the athlete’s village: “Next man who come up and puts a camera in my face or a speaker up in my face, I’m going to knock them down and jump on them, you hear?”
The American people in the 1960s saw Carlos and Smith’s fists as a personal attack on America. They did not want to see the United States be defamed and embarrassed in front of the world, and especially her enemies, like the Soviet Union and Cuba.
Things have changed since then. Wolfe doesn’t need a chance to burn the American flag at the podium. Symbolically he already has, because the United States hand-picked him to be a representative of America internationally. Was Wolfe forced to apologize or take back his statement before accepting his place on the team? Nope, and I’m not surprised since that kind of rhetoric has become commonplace among American athletes in 2021.
Even if Americans are not paying too much attention to Wolfe, you can bet the Chinese are. This year, the genocidal Chinese government slammed the United States, saying it is a racist country in order to deflect from their human rights abuses committed against the Uyghur Muslims and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Can our president defend the United States against such slander? No, because he has repeatedly stated that the United States — not China or Lebanon or India, the United States — is institutionally racist.
Can American citizens defend themselves? No. Thanks to taxpayer-funded critical race theory, millions of Americans believe that the United States is an evil, inherently racist country. Indeed, China’s slanderous talking points were handed to them on a silver platter by Black Lives Matter and the Biden administration.
Given how strong of a reaction there was to Carlos and Smith raising their fists, it’s not hard to imagine how much stronger the reaction would have been if an Olympic athlete threatened to burn the American flag at the podium in 1968. The shift in the American psyche is reflected in the numbers as well, with American pride plummeting to a record low in 2020.
What we are witnessing is a decline in our culture, ethos, and national credibility. It’s no secret that China is beating us in a space race we aren’t even competing in and that they now have the world’s largest navy. What are we doing to meet this challenge? NASA has launched “Mission Equity” (no seriously, that’s not a joke), and our military feeds American soldiers’ spirits with Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist,” instead of notions of equality, patriotism, and camaraderie.
It’s gotten so bad that we can’t even recruit soldiers based on patriotism anymore. Just take a look at our military recruitment ad compared to that of Russia and China.
America was founded on principles that freed slaves during the Civil War, granted women the right to vote, established authentic equality during the civil rights movement, and triumphed over the Soviet Union and communism. Today, our founding principles, the documents in which they are contained, and the men who wrote them have been smeared and denounced. Our sense of self and love of country is eroding.
The Olympics have always been a powerful tool for measuring world power and dominance. Why else would the Chinese government fund grueling Chinese “sports schools” to raise Olympians?
That’s why Wolfe’s comments are not just an innocuous Facebook post. It has a profound effect on our enemies and on the American psyche. The world is not only laughing at us, they are taking measure of our weaknesses, and they will use it against us. They know a self-loathing nation is a weak nation.