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Social media, as we currently have experienced it in the COVID-19 era, mostly exists to police thought and insist on uniformity of opinion on all COVID issues. That’s been the overarching principle that has governed since March of 2020 in this country. The “experts” in science and medicine at the CDC and the NIH made a determination about what the COVID science was and then attempted to destroy anyone who challenged that consensus opinion by deploying their assets in the mainstream media.
The government, in conjunction with major tech companies and the media, has colluded to censor anyone who has challenged the consensus opinion when it comes to masks, the safety of opening schools, whether lockdowns made sense, whether sports could be played, the efficacy of the COVID shot, and where COVID came from. We were told what an acceptable narrative was and then anyone who challenged that narrative was relentlessly attacked by powerful media interests and hammered by social media mobs.
It didn’t matter that the government, big tech, and the mainstream media were wrong about all of this, they wouldn’t allow any debate on the issues. Suddenly “science” was the opposite of science, if you questioned anything you belonged in the gulag. If you asked why young and healthy people should get the COVID shot, you were shouted down. If you asked why the government should be determining what an essential and inessential business was, woe unto you. Never in my life have I seen an unholy trinity of censorship like I’ve seen with the power of government, big tech, and the mainstream media all pulling in the same direction when it came to enforcing their own narrative of COVID.
Even if, as you have all noticed by now, the entire narrative of COVID was mostly wrong. Schools should have never shut down because kids could have gone to school safely all along. Masks did virtually nothing, if anything at all, to stop the spread of COVID. You didn’t actually need to Lysol your mail and groceries, you could go to the beach and hike on trails, your kid’s local playground didn’t need to be covered with crime scene tape and we didn’t need to be ripping rims off outdoor basketball hoops and arresting lone paddle boarders in the Pacific Ocean. The six foot of social distancing was bunk, all of this was madness.
Pure unadulterated madness.
It was mass delusion on a level none of us living today in America have ever seen before.
Everyone didn’t agree with these decisions, of course, many knew better, but most either still pretended they agreed by yelling along with the mob lest they become targets of the covid mob themselves or they stayed meekly silent. But not everyone was silent, a daring few were willing to speak up in the face of these powerful entities and challenge the prevailing consensus.
And some of these people came from sports.
For generations we’ve been talking about who the next Muhammad Ali of sports would be. Ali, you’ll recall, famously refused to fight in Vietnam, giving up his heavyweight title and going to prison over his refusal. Today Ali’s bravery in standing up to the government and its media allies is widely acclaimed, but in the 1960s that wasn’t so. Ali was a revolutionary, an outspoken advocate for peace in a time of war, a man who was willing to give up his fame and fortune to stand on the principles for which he believed.
Now it’s virtually impossible to find anyone who speaks out in favor of the Vietnam War being fought, but in the 1960s Ali’s stand was remarkably controversial. Today history has vindicated Ali and almost everyone proclaims him a hero, but that wasn’t the case when Ali spoke out against the Vietnam War. He was radioactive, anti-American, how dare he defy the government and stand against its excesses? Why didn’t he just shut up and go to war?
There’s obsessive talk in America today about being on the right and wrong side of history. I’ve been thinking about this a great deal as the COVID era continues and we prepare for another election in 2022 and 2024. All day long we are lectured on social media about the right and wrong side of history, frequently by people who have no actual knowledge of history.
And the more I think about it, the more I’ve come to see our present COVID era as the historical equivalent, in many ways, of the Vietnam Era. I’m not saying the eras are complete replicas — after all history doesn’t repeat it rhymes — but there are many congruencies.
I believe that our country’s response to COVID is the biggest failure of American public policy since the Vietnam War. And both failures have much in common. Remember, after all, it was the best and brightest in our country, the experts of their day, who all told us that fighting in Vietnam was a necessity. But all those experts, with all their fancy degrees and brilliant training, got it wrong. And the Muhammad Alis, the non-experts and the regular people speaking out against the war, got it right.
We had no business being in Vietnam. The experts were wrong. Ali, indisputably, was on the right side of history when it came to the Vietnam War and the government’s mandates that many young men give up their lives to travel halfway around the world to fight in a jungle for a country they could barely find on a map.
I was thinking about this over the weekend as I listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And as I listened to Rogan and Rodgers, a couple of sports dudes with no advanced scientific degrees, make more sense talking about COVID than Dr. Fauci has in over two years, I couldn’t help but think how much I admired Rodgers for speaking out about COVID and our government’s failures of policy.
The easiest thing in the world for Rodgers to do was to meekly submit and get the COVID shot. If he’d gone public with how excited he was to get the COVID shot, he would have been universally praised by the media, the big tech algorithms would have made him a hero, Joe Biden might have even given him the presidential medal of honor. But Rodgers didn’t stay silent and he didn’t pretend it made sense to get the COVID shot.
In a time filled with sheep, he was a lion.
He spoke out. And as a result Rodgers has been publicly attacked more aggressively than almost any athlete in our lives for refusing to submit and get the COVID shot. President Joe Biden even attacked him by name and Joe Biden can barely remember anyone’s name. These attacks came despite the fact that Rodgers has been completely right about the COVID shot. He, and no other young and healthy athlete, actually needed the shot. The fact that any sports league tried to bully their athletes into getting it is a failure of generational proportions. Particularly because the shot, despite what Dr. Fauci told us, neither keeps you from getting COVID nor stops you from spreading it.
You can watch a small piece of the Rogan and Rodgers discussion here.
Their discussion also made me angry because the U.S. Open tennis tournament is also starting this week and one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Novak Djokovic, isn’t being permitted to play in the tournament because he’s refused to get the COVID shot. Djokovic, who has 21 majors, may well have lost the chance to be the greatest tennis player of all time because he also wasn’t allowed to play in the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. Djokovic would have been favored to win both the Aussie and U.S. Open if only he’d been willing to get a COVID shot. That would have potentially gotten him to 23, which would have been a new all time record for majors.
But Djokovic refused too.
And as a result he’s been uniformly attacked by multiple governments, by big tech, and by the media that cover his sport. Just like Rodgers, the easiest thing in the world for Djokovic to do would have been to get the shot and submit to the mandates of government authorities.
Which brings me to Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets.
Kyrie also refused to get the COVID shot and was uniformly ridiculed by media and tech algorithms across the country. Politicians ripped Irving, his own league ripped him, the pressure to simply get the shot was overwhelming. Heck, it even cost Kyrie tens of millions of dollars not to play.
But still Kyrie refused.
He even pointed out the absurdity of New York City’s COVID rules by showing up and sitting courtside to watch a game he wasn’t permitted to play in, but could sit and watch. Kyrie left tens of millions of dollars on the table because he wasn’t willing to submit to the government or his employer.
And as I thought about all three of these men, and their willingness to stand up to the full power of the attempted COVID mandates in the United States government, I couldn’t help but think about Ali and the Vietnam draft mandates. These three athletes are doing what Ali did, they are speaking truth to power, standing on principle over money and praise, directly defying the United States government because they believe that in a democracy some things are more important than universal acclaim. They’re doing exactly what the woke sports media claims we want all athletes to do, using their platforms to speak inconvenient truth to power.
And they’re being crushed for it.
This will probably be the only sports column you’ve ever read praising all three men for their COVID shot decisions. Compare that with the hundreds that have been written crushing them for their choices. Yet much like Ali, I firmly believe that in the decades to come all of these men are going to be vindicated by history. Rodgers, Djokovic and Irving are, contrary to what the blue checks in masks on social media lecturing you have been saying for years, on the right side of history. And all their critics are on the wrong side of history.
We overuse the term bravery in American life in general, but especially in sports. Name your favorite athlete and type in brave beside their name and there’s likely to be some online hagiography written talking about how brave it was to play in a game after an injury or speak out about left wing social media causes. Megan Rapinoe, the left wing sports media will argue, was so brave not to attend the White House to celebrate the U.S. women’s World Cup win. It was so brave of LeBron James to pose with a safety pin on the cover of Sports Illustrated after Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, look at Colin Kaepernick, it was so brave to kneel. They’re all modern day Muhammad Alis!
But what these articles miss is this historical truth — true bravery requires risk and, often, leads to attack. It isn’t brave to do what the masses want, to give the mob what they demand. Rapinoe, James and Kaepernick all were rewarded financially for their left wing political stances. They all made more money than they would have made if they’d just stayed silent. If you take a stand and the government, big tech companies and the media all praise you, you haven’t actually stood up for anything important, you’ve just made a smart financial decision, further buttressed your bank account, added a new mansion to your portfolio.
True bravery, as I define it, requires the risk of life or freedom. The only athlete who has truly risked his life in the 21st century is Pat Tillman, who gave up millions to play pro football and died halfway around the world serving his country in Afghanistan. Tillman’s sacrifice is, if anything, wildly underdiscussed in our modern society, he’s in a complete class by himself when it comes to athletes and bravery.
But if we want to expand the idea of bravery to require the risk of life, freedom, or your career, then Novak Djokovic, Aaron Rodgers and Kyrie Irving are the three bravest athletes of the social media era. All three men made unpopular choices that could have left them unable to continue their careers.
And they did it despite substantial acrimony raining down upon them from government figures, big tech companies and the media that cover them.
It may take a decade or more for the masses to come to support the bravery that Djokovic, Rodgers and Irving showed when it came to defying governmental COVID shot mandates, but just like with Ali and his defiance of the government’s Vietnam War draft, I believe history will come to praise all three men for being on the right side of history.
While history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes, something that the noted wordsmith Ali certainly would appreciate. And by standing up to government overreach even at great personal cost, Irving, Djokovic and Rodgers all are the modern day heirs of Ali.