While Donald Trump demands the NFL should stick to sport at the risk of disrespecting American values, two Houston players are quietly helping their community heal from floods that devastated the city.
Trump's war on the NFL has made global headlines after he implored team owners to "fire" any "sons of bitches" who protest racism during the national anthem.
The response was swift and defiant. What began as a one-man gesture from former 49ers star Colin Kaepernick this weekend became a unified call to arms. More than 100 players and officials kneeled or linked arms during the national anthem before NFL games this weekend and three teams boycotted the anthem altogether.
Kaepernick's protests against police violence against black Americans garnered national attention. Seahawks player Michael Bennett lent the cause fresh impetus this month when he revealed his mistreatment by a police officer during a violent, ugly and unjust arrest in Las Vegas.
Anything else y'all need, I'm always here to help.Deshaun Watson
The President's contention that sport and politics don't mix is fallible and problematic; for generations sport has taken an active and positive role in communities to lead, empower and champion change.
And while the most powerful man in America wants the NFL to stay in its lane, two players from the Houston Texans have done far more for their community by stepping out of it.
JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson -- Watt is white and Watson is black -- were pictured locking arms with their teammates in protest on Monday morning (Australian time). They know more than most about uniting a community and using their profiles for progressive action.
Watt, the face of the Houston franchise, started a fundraiser when Hurricane Harvey ravaged his city with floodwaters. His initial goal was $200,000. By the time he was done, he'd raised more than $37 million.
Watson, a rookie quarterback, donated his first game cheque to three women who work at the Houston Texans' home stadium. These three women lost everything they had in the floods.
The more we can be unified the better off we're going to be.JJ Watt
Had Watt and Watson had stuck to sport, their community would be demonstrably worse off.
For Watt, the conversation intersected this weekend. When asked about it, he was uniquely positioned to talk about the power of unity.
"I think that I can speak to what I've seen recently in the last month or so and the incredible nature of people coming together and the unity people showed in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, in the midst of Hurricane Irma, everybody in Puerto Rico helping out," he said.
"It's incredible to see what people do when they come together for a common cause.
"And obviously it's a very difficult time in our country. There's division. But I think that I can only speak to what I've personally seen in the last month and that's people of all races, of all ethnicities, of all backgrounds, of all financial situations coming together to help each other out. And I think that has been such an incredible thing for me to witness, and it also gives a great amount of hope in my eyes.
"So I think those are the types of things we have to build off of. I think there's obviously a lot of things that conversations have been started and it's great. I think that the more we can come together and the more we can be unified the better off we're going to be."
Watson, while new to the game, has embraced his responsibility as a team and community leader. While his salary of $465,000 is more than generous by comparison with common folks, it's miles short of the $100+ million deals signed by others across the league.
Watson sought out three women who work at the cafeteria in his team's facility to present them with an equal share of his first game cheque. According to his team, Watson knows the power of giving. He was 11 years old when Habitat For Humanity provided a home for his family.
"Hopefully that can help get you back on your feet. Anything else y'all need, I'm always here to help," Watson tells the women, who are clearly touched. It's a small gesture, but it's significant. It shows the power of big, well-funded institutions to positively impact others.
And therein lies the rub. Watson and Watt -- and Kaepernick and dozens of others -- understand they have a social responsibility to be leaders in their communities. As the Texans say: If you can, you must. Call it politics, call it activism; the crux of these gestures is uniting behind a common goal to do the right thing.
According to the White House, Watt and Watson are "sons of bitches" who should be booted off their teams. These two men are supposedly Trump's "sons of bitches".
Houston probably wouldn't agree.Suggest a correction